Substance abuse affects both in-office and remote employees. However, addiction is more likely to go unnoticed among remote workers, and for longer.
Remote Workers And Substance Abuse Trends
In-office employees with addiction issues may exhibit warning signs that become noticeable to their colleagues.
Some of these warning signs include:
- changes in behavior or physical appearance
- higher rate of work error
Employees working in remote settings do not need to anticipate physical interactions with their colleagues. Remote workers also are not typically required to undergo routine drug-abuse testing.
Because of this, and for other reasons, addiction can be easily overlooked in remote employees.
Substance Abuse Among Remote Workers Versus In-Office Employees
Nearly one in 10 adult workers in the U.S. have substance abuse issues, according to recent data. Industries that show higher rates of addiction include construction, food service, and entertainment.
The number of remote workers with substance abuse issues is unknown. The lack of data is due to addiction issues in this demographic going unreported or overlooked.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to a dramatic increase in the number of remote workers. Pre-COVID, only 6% of workers were considered full-time remote employees, but during COVID, this number jumped to 33%.
The number of Americans with addictions also increased by more than 1 million during the pandemic, according to research from Pharmaceuticals.
How Remote Work Impacts Addiction
There are many reasons why working remotely may impact addictive behaviors. One of the most significant reasons is that remote work is associated with greater isolation.
Loneliness And Isolation
Although working in a remote capacity may allow for greater leniency, it can also stir up negative emotions like loneliness, boredom, and stress.
In experiencing these emotions day in and day out, people may turn to substances as a way to cope.
Loneliness is a major concern for adults in the U.S. and worldwide, and it is linked to serious health concerns.
Likewise, it is common for people with substance abuse issues or tendencies to turn to substances to cope with feeling alone.
Lack Of Accountability
Another factor contributing to substance use among remote workers is the lack of oversight and accountability.
Without the need to show up at an office every day, it may be easier for remote workers to perform job duties while under the influence, and without the awareness of their colleagues.
In tandem with lack of accountability, a remote work setting may also make it more convenient for people to use substances.
There may be no need for an employee to hide the physical use of drugs or alcohol when working from home, for example, where alcohol or drugs may also be more readily available.
Warning Signs Of Substance Use In Remote Workers
Despite working in a remote capacity, there are warning signs that employees might take note of if a coworker is experiencing substance abuse.
Warning signs of addiction in remote employees may include:
- avoiding phone calls, virtual meetings, or other direct interactions
- increased absences, often with little or no notice
- slurred speech
- incoherent or nonsensical communication via phone, email, or on messenger apps
- changes in disposition
- changes in or inconsistent job performance
How Employers Can Respond To Substance Use Among Remote Workers
If an employer suspects that a remote employee might have a substance abuse issue, there are supportive ways to respond.
Contact The Employee Privately
When confronting an employee about a possible substance issue, it is best to approach the situation from a position of kindness and non-judgmental concern.
The most important aspect, after all, is to connect the person with helpful resources.
The first means of communication should be done directly between the employee and one other individual. Depending on the company’s structure and size, this other individual might be a manager, a human resources professional, or a boss.
It is important for the employee to feel safe in the conversation. Having more than one person initiate the conversation can have the opposite effect and come across as intimidating.
During the conversation, the employee should be informed about the changes in their behavior and/or work performance.
The initiator should ask whether the employee needs help outside of the work setting. Then, the initiator and employee should discuss a plan to improve performance.
Help Is Available
If you or a loved one is experiencing addiction, help is available. Contact Detox Rehabs today to learn about treatment options.Article Sources
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention (CDC)
- National Council On Compensation Insurance (NCII)
- National Safety Council (NSC)
- Society For Human Resource Management