There are illicit drugs that have adverse effects on a human being, and then there’s alcohol, whose effects are just as bad—or even worse—but is actually legal and easily obtained. Illegal drugs and alcohol both cause problems in the workplace, but according to an estimate by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), up to 40% of accidents at work involve or are related to alcohol use, and that should be a major cause for concern among employers.
Alcohol drinking in the workplace
It is no secret that there are employees who actually drink during work. Some drink before a shift, while others drink during their lunch breaks and even during work hours, courtesy of a well-hidden flask somewhere in the workplace. There are also official parties or gatherings, where the standard practice is to serve alcoholic drinks.
Then again, alcohol-related problems in the workplace are not limited to those who actually drink while at work. Even those who drink alcohol on their own time at nights or on weekends are just as affected by the substance they ingest, long after they have ingested them.
Studies have already shown that heavy or habitual drinking—whether during work or personal leisure time—has adverse effects in the long term work performance of an employee. Among the effects of alcohol drinking include absenteeism, poor decision-making, inefficiency, frequent mistakes, unsatisfactory work quality, reduced productivity and procrastination, among other things. These problems drinking in the workplace can cause are bad enough, but what makes them worse is that they often lead to workplace accidents that cause injury and death.
Alcohol drinking causes impairment
No one can argue that alcohol does cause impairment. With a raised level of alcohol in the blood, a person becomes more prone to make mistakes, errors of judgment, or simple physical incapability to perform an otherwise routine task.
Numerous studies have already proven that any significant amount of alcohol in an individual’s system causes impairment. There’s this one study with airline pilots as subjects, which had them perform routine tasks in a simulator while under 3 alcohol test conditions. Its findings were fairly predictable. About 89 per cent of the pilots tested were incapable of correctly performing all the tasks after their blood alcohol level in their system reached 100mg/dl. A more telling discovery is that 68 percent of the subjects still could not perform all the operations correctly even after 14 hours, when all the alcohol they ingested have already left their systems.
Eventually, an employee with a long-term alcohol drinking problem becomes prone to a host of social, psychological and medical problems, all of which are going to affect his or her performance at work even more. Alcohol can alter personalities and take away inhibitions, both of which could lead to conflict in the workplace. The employee could also suffer from cardiovascular, hepatic and renal problems.
Help for employees with alcohol drinking problems
While an existing workplace alcohol policy empowers employers to suspend or even dismiss employees who violate them, it needs to be said that what these employees need is help — not immediate judgement. It would greatly help that employers emphasise in their policies their willingness to provide that kind of help, particularly through Employee Assistance Programs or EAPs. With that kind of assistance, employees with alcohol problems can slowly go on the path to recovery, and that recovery means they will become the hardworking and reliable workers that they have always been before alcohol sank its claws on them.