9 out of 10 employees admitted to drinking alcohol while working from home.
03/09/2021 – HR publication Personnel Today reported that 9 out of 10 employees questioned admitted to drinking alcohol while working from home, and the OECD reported increased alcohol receipts across many countries including the UK. A UN report found that drugs use increased 400% between 2017 and 2020, leading many to conclude that the number of employees still under the influence of something after a night out, or indeed a night in, must be rising.
Is it necessarily a problem? Aside from the obvious dangers of driving or operating machinery under the influence, it seems likely that employee’s efficiency and judgement is likely to be impaired to some degree, but with homeworking now an accepted norm, the visible signs are no longer as easy to detect.
Homeworking predicted to decrease efficiency amongst muddled government guidance
The Telegraph reported this week that Dame Helena Morrissey, a City Grandee, has lobbied Boris Johnson to send a clearer message to employers regarding a return to the office, criticising the muddled message currently coming from Whitehall, an echoing our own sentiments on this matter (see our earlier article: “We need a ‘Back to Normal’ taskforce to restore normality in employment.”
As homeworking becomes cemented Dame Helena predicts a reduction in efficiency in employers unable or unwilling to call staff back to the workplace. While drugs and alcohol may not be the only distractions that may decrease efficiency, some commentators have suggested random drug and alcohol testing to remind employees of the consequences of being under the influence at work, though this practice is still not common amongst employers.
Reviewing key HR & H&S policies
Employers are encouraged to revisit their health and safety and drugs and alcohol policies in the light of new working practices. This would seem sensible advice for those who feel that a return to the office, where visible signs of abuse can be identified more easily, is not possible in the absence of government leadership. With the civil service advertising vacancies with permanent home working (se our article: Rishi’s ‘return to the office’ campaign thwarted by his own department) it seems that leadership is going to be a long time coming.
Increased engagement with home working staff needed
Policies aside, it’s clear that a more remote relationship with staff will require greater efforts to monitor welfare and job satisfaction, to ensure staff aren’t working excessively, are working efficiently, and are sufficiently engaged. These things would have happened (to an extent) anecdotally pre-pandemic but it’s clear that employers will need to make time to conduct welfare and other reviews more formally for homeworkers.
Whether reviews should include questions about employee’s alcohol and drug use will be a matter for each individual employer, but given the backdrop of increasing consumption it would seem reasonable to enquire. It might also be sensible to update drug and alcohol policies to reflect homeworking and to remind homeworkers that trips to the wine rack should be an out of hours excursion. For employees suffering from addiction, help is available from GPs or by contacting support groups directly.
Support groups for drugs and alcohol addiction (a small selection)
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