What HR managers should do when employees abuse substances?

According to data from the Federal Substance and Mental Health Services over 10% of working adults have some form of drug or alcohol dependency.

This means that over 14 million workers in the U.S. workforce have some form of drug addiction.

Most of the company owners and managers believe that the responsibility of dealing with this problem lies with HR. So as an HR manager how do you help employees that are using drugs either at work or home?

1. Workplace policies and treatment resources

One of the first things an HR manager should do is gather the necessary and potential treatment resources on substance abuse. By visiting the various local drug abuse centers, you can get the necessary educational materials that are useful for drug users. This way they know that help is readily available for them if they need it. One of the most common mistakes HR professionals make is to castigate employees who need help. If counseling is not enough, refer drug users to a reputable rehab facility.

As an HR manager, you should ensure that there is an enforced drug-free workplace and substance abuse policy. This way employees will be able to avoid being in a drug abuse situation in the first place, and they will get to know that there are consequences if they use drugs in the workplace.

Not only does having a strict drug workplace and drug testing policy help things to run smoothly but it also greatly improves the lives of your employees and their loved ones.

2. Be approachable and accommodating

As an HR manager, you must balance between being strict and being friendly. Let your employees know that you can be easily reached whenever they have a problem or need something. By showing them you can be approached and will listen to what they want to say, they will be able to vent and get their frustrations off their chests.

But you should know the difference between solving their problem and listening because as an HR manager there isn’t much you can do if they’re having issues at home. You can only advise them on who they should approach when they have such issues, but in the end, they will have to find their own solutions.

If an employee needs special treatment from time to time, be accommodating. Just have an agreement on how long this treatment will last and make sure it’s clear and they commit themselves to it. It is a good idea to come up with flexible working hours and flexible working location so that even if undergoing treatment, an employee can remain productive. This can be either by having them come to work later than normal on certain days, or you can have them work from home on certain days of the week.

Offering a temporary and different position to an employee may also lessen their stress and may end being very effective. An example is if the employee travels a lot you can have someone else to take over.

3. “Attack” the problem head-on

One of the biggest issues with drug addicts is the stigma associated with it, and most of the affected employees will shy away from seeking any professional help. When the drug or alcohol abuse starts affecting their work performance, it might already be too late. You must be able to notice employees with drug issues even before it becomes apparent. Do not wait for them to approach you, instead, reach out to them.

There are many expectations when it comes to job performance and etiquette, and sometimes employees can feel the pressure. HR professionals should practice “tough love” and if an employee has a problem, they should let them know and notify them that it’s affecting their work.

Lindsey Patterson works as a director of marketing at a tech firm in Utah.

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