When it comes to organizational culture, we want to offer a work life in which everyone thrives, and the business succeeds. To achieve this, we must discuss things that can be uncomfortable – even taboo. A prime example of this is employee mental health. Thankfully, our society is starting to break down the long-held stigma associated with mental health, but we still have work to do.
On the most recent episode of The Culture Podcast – “A New Approach to the Problem of Workplace Substance Abuse” – we had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Richard Shuster – a world renowned psychologist who is tackling the topic of mental health and substance abuse in corporate America. A controversial subject that has, for the most part, been swept under the rug so to speak.
As a business leader, you may be thinking “What could I do to support an employee who has a mental health or substance abuse issue? Isn’t that something they should handle outside of work? The answers to these questions may surprise you – as well as the impact mental health (and the substance abuse that tends to accompany it) can have on an organization. According to Dr. Shuster, consider this…
- An estimated 21 million Americans have at least one addiction, but only 10% receive treatment.
- $80-$100 billion is lost by corporations due to substance abuse. $25 billion of that is related to productivity issues and absenteeism from work.
- The average employee takes off around 10 days per year for illness, vacation, sick kids, etc. However, employees battling substance abuse issues miss nearly 50% more than their peers.
- The turnover rate is upwards to 42% for people suffering with addictive disorders.
- Companies that do not have EAP Programs (Employee Assistance Program) or drug screening see upwards of 40% greater drug use compared to companies that do have these measures in place.
Startling isn’t it? That’s the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the financial impact of mental health and substance abuse disorders on an organization. For the most part, corporate America is ill-equipped to effectively support employees who suffer – lacking the education, resources, and cultural support needed.
The world that we live in today is primed to promote stress, anxiety, and depression. There is no separation of work and home, no buffer. We are constantly putting out fires at work and home simultaneously. Combining this with the fact the sale of prescription painkillers has increased by 300% over the last 20 years, you have a true recipe for disaster. Dr. Shuster promotes a holistic approach organizations can take to support employees. Looking at a person’s resiliency, strengths, ability to handle emotional stress, and other factors that can determine their sobriety or derail their abstinence.
An organization’s culture is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role – offering the right education, tools, and resources. Most importantly, they can communicate them in a way that shows respect and support (not labeling or stigmatizing). It starts with openness from the top. So, what can an organization do to build this type of supportive culture? Consider these strategies…
- If your company does not have an EAP Program, get one. Companies with an effective EAP provider have more loyal employees – which saves money on hiring and training replacements.
- Make sure your culture is built on a foundation of safety and trust.
- Treat substance abuse not as a stigma that should be swept under the rug, but as a treatable disease. You would offer support to an employee battling heart disease or cancer. There is no difference.
- Make sure your HR policies are not fear-inducing or punitive. People are often afraid to speak up in fear of being terminated or judged.
- Ensure your culture does not actively support addictions. For example, if you know you have several employees struggling with alcohol addiction, do not bring in beer on Fridays or encourage Happy Hours as a team-building exercise.
Addiction and recovery do not exist in a bubble. As leaders, we must build a supportive, stigma-free culture that helps our employees through their challenges – allowing them to be the best possible version of themselves. A culture like this shows a genuine care for its people – not just what they can produce for the organization. A true Win-Win for all.
Subscribe to The Culture Podcast and hear more from our dynamic conversation with Dr. Richard Shuster. To learn more about Successful Culture International visit our website at https://www.successfulculture.com/ to learn how to build a supportive culture built on mutual trust and respect.