Risk & Safety

Know the Warning Signs: Alcohol in the Workplace

Ella Baker
Know the Warning Signs: Alcohol in the Workplace
Reading time 5 Mins
Published on Jan 2

According to a report by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, workers who struggle with alcohol addiction are three times as likely to have injury-related absences as their coworkers. Not only are these employees more likely to injure themselves, but they also put the health and safety of others at risk whenever they come to work under the influence of alcohol. Knowing the potential warning signs of alcohol use in the workplace can help managers, supervisors, and human resources teams identify potential issues early – preventing future safety incidents and helping employees get the help they need to overcome their alcohol-related problems.

The first to accept a drink

While many workers enjoy a drink from time to time, those with an alcohol addiction struggle to contain their desire for a drink more than most. Whether at the company holiday party, a social outing with work colleagues, or entertaining clients, an employee who is struggling with alcohol abuse is the first to say yes to a drink and, often, the last to stop drinking.

While everyone has a bad day at work from time to time that may lead them to drink more than usual at an after-work gathering, when the practice of overindulging becomes a habit, it may be time for worried coworkers to talk to a supervisor or HR manager about their suspicions.

Mood swings

Alcohol is notorious for creating mood swings. Altering the way people present themselves or communicate with others, alcohol can lead the mood and attitude of users to swing wildly from friendly and chatty to mean and sullen in the blink of an eye.

Employees who are struggling with an alcohol problem will likely drink prior to coming into the office and often at lunch. When someone is addicted to alcohol, the hours spent at work when they cannot drink may result in a grumpy demeanor and a negative outlook and attitude because the brain’s dependence on the substance leaves them unable to regulate their mood. Employees who are worried about a coworker’s potential alcohol abuse should be encouraged to talk to their supervisors, safety team members, or HR manager in private.

Change in attendance

Employees who are suffering from alcohol addiction often struggle with keeping to their set work schedule – resulting in frequent absences, disappearances, or tardiness. While everyone has an unexpected emergency now and then, when a pattern of absence becomes the norm it may be time to start looking for other potential warning signs of alcohol abuse.

When an employee is suffering from alcohol addiction, they may fail to turn up for important meetings or make an excuse to disappear right after the meeting ends. These employees may also have multiple family “obligations” or “emergencies” that draw them out of the office midday or leave them unable to come into work on a given day. Additionally, workers struggling with alcohol use may be more likely to develop the “Monday flu” to recover from a weekend of indulging in alcohol.

In addition to leaving the workplace short-handed, these absences can also leave fellow employees upset about the additional work they have to take on to cover for their missing coworker. Worst of all, in high-skilled or demanding manufacturing positions, when an employee without appropriate training or experience operating a piece of machinery is asked to fill in for an absent employee, the risk of injury or accident increases dramatically.

Declining performance

Managers and supervisors are often the first to notice when the performance of a dependable employee suddenly begins to decline, especially when it becomes a habit. This decline in the performance of workplace duties can be a symptom of alcohol abuse.

An employee under the influence of alcohol may do as much as they can to make it seem like they’re performing their job, but when looked at closely, this work is often sloppy, details are missed, or the tasks aren’t done to the expected standard. If a fellow employee reports that a coworker or supervisor is missing deadlines, forgetting important information, or making frequent mistakes, it may be time to have a conversation with the struggling employee to discuss their issues and needs.

Your partner in safety

When employees are under the influence of alcohol in the workplace, serious injury or death is more likely to occur. Keeping your workers safe is your top priority – and helping you do that is the top priority for Sheakley Workforce Management Services. Our experts are here to help you develop effective policies to reach your safety goals and provide assistance with creating an alcohol and drug-free workplace safety program.

Get your free safety consultation today with an expert from Sheakley. Stay up-to-date on all things Sheakley by subscribing to our blog and following us on social media. Join the discussion by commenting below.

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