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How to provide support for staff struggling with addictive behaviours

For an employee who is struggling with addiction, effective support can be life-changing. It can also ensure the safety and wellbeing of the teams they work with. But what does this look like?

It depends. Different forms of addiction present their own challenges and risks. There is no simple off-the-shelf solution.

Dr Sarah Griffiths, Lead Behavioural Insights Specialist, Bupa Global and UK says,

“Misuse of substances and drugs can have an impact on the employee's physical and mental health. In some work contexts, this could pose a safety risk.' “A gambling disorder can lead to impulsive decision making and financial harm, such as over borrowing and large debts.”

Support strategies

Each case will present its own challenges, but it is essential to have clear policies and support in place. There are some key pillars and issues to consider:

Trust and relationships:

Line-managers who have built good team relationships are more likely to spot signs that an employee is struggling.

This may include:

Signposting support:

Addictions and poor mental health often go hand-in-hand. As a result, programmes that build psychological wellbeing can help identify any underlying drivers for the addictive behaviour.

Helpful steps on a pathway to recovery may include:

Resources from the Workplace Health and Wellbeing Academy

1 Health and Safety Executive, Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work.

2 Championing work and better work lives (PDF, 2.7MB) , Managing drug and alcohol misuse at work, August 2020.

3 GOV UK, Alcohol misuse, October 2022. Dementia care

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