Corporate wellness insights

The Opioid Crisis in the Workplace: How Employers Can Provide Support

Posted by Katy Gathright on 11.15.2017

Just like you, we’re watching the opioid crisis sweep the nation with deep sadness and empathy for all of the people and families affected. Certainly as we near the Thanksgiving holiday, we are wishing as much peace and recovery for those families as possible.

The opioid epidemic is a true crisis—and it’s destructive at home and in the workplace. For employers, some estimates show that people abusing opioids can be twice as costly as employees who aren’t abusing drugs. Opioid abusers also have twice as many missed work days.

When we talk about workplace wellness, we’re always talking about the big picture—and that includes public health crises, which can often feel so overwhelming it’s hard to know where to start.

1. Focus on mental wellbeing.

The country is facing this epidemic for many reasons—workplaces may not be equipped to tackle all of them, but mental health is an underlying factor that employers can address. There is a strong link between people with anxiety and depression and those who are abusing prescription drugs. Adding mindfulness exercises and building out a health coaching program might not solve the opioid crisis overnight, but providing the resources for employees to take care of their whole selves can kick start the kind of comprehensive solution necessary to save lives.

2. Have clear policies in place.

Be clear about your policies on drug abuse, drug testing, and consequences. Create structures that incentivize employees to stay clean or seek the support they need to stay or get healthy. We are big believers in strong communication, which not only sets guidelines and rules but also builds trust. Learn more about what proactive communication in this scenario could look like. Clear communication also relies on employee education around what trouble signs to look for—it’s extremely common for people to miss the signs of drug abuse if they don’t know what to look for.

3. Build a culture of wellness and transparency.

There’s no getting around it—workplace culture really matters. And that’s good news, because employers are in a great position to build a culture that empowers employees to do their best work and lead their best lives. As a company all about solutions, we think there’s a lot of value in building a culture focused on asking for help and positive change.

As one article puts it:

“We need more than prison sentences or policy interventions: We need a culture change. We need to shift from a culture of shame and punishment to one of healing and wellness.” 

Join us as we build a movement of spreading wellness in the workplace.

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