Addiction in the Workplace – Part II – The Cost

Although addiction causes disruption and harm on the individual level, its effects aren’t limited to just the addicted person’s life.  The consequences radiate outward impacting family and friends, employers and coworkers, and society as a whole.   In terms of the workplace, the impact is both widespread and multifaceted.

In this post, we’ll explore the costs associated with addiction and how it affects an organization in keyways, such as profitability, efficiency, morale, safety, and more.

Adding up the costs of addiction

Estimates put the annual cost of addiction to US workplaces at $81 billion. This figure includes money lost due to absenteeism, decreased productivity, accidents, injuries, healthcare, and theft of resources from the workplace to support addictions.

A person suffering with addiction typically finds their work performance diminished in several ways. While under the influence of a substance, with marijuana and cocaine being the most common illegal drugs used on the job, an individual will have a decreased ability to concentrate and perform their jobs effectively and safely.  A national study found that 16% of people who sought emergency treatment for on-the-job injuries had alcohol in their system. Even when they aren’t under the influence, their work performance suffers.  This is because many will experience withdrawal symptoms that interfere with their mood, energy, focus, and overall cognitive ability.

Family members and friends of people with addictions also report a negative impact on their work lives. Just over a quarter of employed adults have a family member affected by addiction; of these adults, 42% say their productivity has decreased because of it.

Work from home might be making things worse

With many people now working from home in the wake of the pandemic, the boundaries between personal and professional life have grown blurrier, opening the door to more addiction-related issues. According to a survey of 3,000 workers, 1 in 3 Americans who worked from home during the pandemic, and were away from the watchful eyes of management and coworkers, were likely to consume alcohol during the workday, leading to more errors and loss of productivity and morale.

How recovery factors into the bottom line

As devastating as an addiction is, there is hope to be found in recovery. Aside from the most important outcome of improving, and perhaps saving, the addict’s life and health, does recovery from addiction help organizations reduce their losses? The answer is a resounding yes.

According to one study, employees who sought help and were in recovery from substance abuse created significant savings for their employers compared to employees who were still active in their addictions. On a per-person basis, those savings included:

  • Approximately $530 in health-care-related costs
  • Up to $4,000 in turnover and replacement costs
  • Over $8,000 in productivity-associated costs

Given how critical recovery plays in saving people’s lives and livelihoods, what can employers do to encourage and support recovery.

In the last article of this series, we’ll look at the tools and strategies companies can use to help their employees begin the recovery process. 

This information is brought to you by Jigsaw Interactive.