COVID’s Impact on Substance Abuse and Tips for Employers

16 Jul


COVID has impacted the world in more ways than we can count. While financial, familial, and social issues have resulted, these stressors have exacerbated mental health issues. A mental health crisis is surfacing in the wake of COVID, causing additional workplace issues for employers to address. Stress is a leading cause for relapse, so it is understandable how COVID has resurfaced or worsened individuals vulnerable to substance abuse or recovering addicts.[1]

With 130 Americans overdosing from opioids and 75% of employers reporting opioid impact in the workplace,[2] employers need to strategize business initiatives to assist employees seeking help, as well as preventing substance-related issues from developing.

Fostering Empathy

Raising awareness in the workplace is one way to demonstrate empathy. Seeking training and resources to educate employees on recognizing signs and symptoms of substance-related issues, as well as expanding de-stigmatization of mental health to substance use can break barriers for individuals grappling with such matters.

Employee Advocacy

Advocating for your employees’ well-being through prompt response to workplace injuries, developing post-injury strategies, and partnering with healthcare providers are great ways to express your compassion for the struggles your employees may face. Create a workplace injury response plan that includes proper employer response, ensuring all documentation and procedures are adequately followed, and developing post-injury care. Post-injury work plans might include easing back to work, flexible work arrangements to allow for proper treatment, transitory roles, and other work accommodations. Reach out to your local healthcare providers, specifically pharmacies to discuss best practices for deterring substance abuse and safeguarding prescription medication compliance with legal regulations and recommendations.

Provide Access to Treatment and Support

The best way to combat substance-related issues is providing readily available and accessible treatment, resources, information, and support.

Employee assistance programs can assist employees suffering from substance abuse or other issues resulting from their workplace injury through professional help. Employers should be prepared for the difficult but sensitive talks regarding an employee’s health that may be impacting their work or others in the workplace. A helpful resource could be a screening toolkit. Sometimes people who suffer from a mental health or substance-related issue don’t even realize it. Screening tools can help individuals recognize, understand, and seek the help they may need.

It’s also important for employers to consider a formal drug-free workplace policy outlining the organization’s expectations and repercussions for violating such policy.

Robin Paggi, Training Coordinator at Worklogic HR – a VensureHR partner, hosted a “COVID’s Impact on Substance Abuse and Tips for Employers” webinar discussing substance abuse issues in the workplace, COVID’s impact on substance abuse, and how employers can better assist our employees who may be struggling with substance use issues. To catch up on the latest webinars in our sensitivity in the workplace series, please visit our Webinars page.

If you’re looking for additional help updating or creating a formal drug-free workplace policy, please contact VensureHR. Our team of HR specialists can provide helpful resources and information and customize HR solutions that best suit your needs.

[1] Keeping the Workplace Safe and Drug-Free Amidst the COVID-19 Crisis

[2] Opioid Crisis Exacerbated by COVID-19: What Employers Can Do