New research on the Impact of Alcohol and Drug Misuse on Productivity in the Workplace Reveals Inconsistencies in Knowledge and Approach


Iloumanate and Bowden2 HR recently joined forces with the aim of providing help and support to businesses in relation to substance use in the workplace and the problems it causes for employers.  Iloumanate is a company which is at the forefront of using the internet to tackle alcohol problems and change the drinking culture and Bowden 2 is an HR consultancy business.

The data describing these problems – financial costs, loss of productivity, managerial and health and employment issues – are well documented elsewhere eg. BMA Occupational Medicine Committee, February 2014.  However, the majority of reports on the topic, are written from an objective observer’s perspective.  Investigations from the viewpoint of the employers are few and far between.

This survey canvassed the opinions of senior HR professionals (mostly directors or managers) about the effect of alcohol and drugs in the workplace and their response. The survey revealed some glaring inconsistencies.

Recently published government statistics put the cost of alcohol abuse to industry at around £7.3bn per annum, through loss of productivity resulting from absenteeism, presenteeism (at work but impaired through intoxication or hangover), replacement costs, accidents, rectifying mistakes, long term sickness and death. The majority of the current participants (76%) agreed that substance use was a problem for employers but this number reduced considerably (33%) when asked if their own organisation had a problem.

  • Only 12% said that they knew how much substance use cost their organisation – although no one could offer an actual estimate of the cost.
  • Despite agreeing that training on alcohol and drug issues would be beneficial for managers (64%) few (21%) actually provided it.
  • When asked what training topics might be helpful, suggestions mostly centred around recognition and dealing with problems.
  • Only 8% of respondents said that they provided any kind of training or education for the workforce. The only example given was “Only by way of the notice board”.
  •  55% felt their organisations could save money if they addressed substance use.

Building on the HR professionals’ responses to this survey we make the following recommendations

  • Help organisations who do not have an alcohol or drug policy to create one.
  • Provide a white paper discussing the business case for addressing substance use
  • Help organisations benchmark the costs of substance use
  • Provide training for managers
  • Provide educational materials and Brief Interventions for workforce
  • Advice line for managers

To access the complete report fill in the form below.


Alcohol and Drug Misuse at Work

Preparation for the conference on Alcohol and Drug Misuse at Work is moving along.  A couple of extra speakers have now been added and the program is almost complete.  To see a copy of

Presenteeism is better than absenteeism - or is it?

Presenteeism is better than absenteeism – or is it?

the program or to download it click on the link below.

Alcohol misuse in the workplace V4

Quaynote, who are the conference organisers have kindly included a reference and a link to our survey about alcohol and drug issues at work.  If you have not already, please fill in the survey, it only takes two minutes.  You can find the survey link here – Workplace survey.

It would be really useful if you completed this survey as there appear to be two schools of thought regarding alcohol and drugs at work, and they are completely opposing.  One side, generally employers and HR say that there are no problems and the other side, everyone else including official statistics, say that there are problems – expensive ones.  So come and have your say about which side you come down on.

Or, if you don’t fill in the survey or even if you do, leave us a comment about your thoughts on the subject, problem or no problem, that is the question.

Get a warm fuzzy feeling

Psychologists tell us that if we take the time to do something for someone else it makes us feel good about ourselves and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy. The warm and fuzzy feeling comes from the release of endorphins, the natural opiates of the body, and dopamine, the chemical of Warm fuzzy feelingreward in the brain. Another chemical can also be released. This is oxytocin, which is the chemical thought to promote bonding between mothers and their children. However oxytocin can have another effect – it relieves stress. So mix yourself a positive neurochemical cocktail by helping us out.

Dr John McMahon of Iloumanate, and Jennifer Bowden of bowden2 Ltd, have joined forces to work on this project to look at the current issues of alcohol and drugs in the workplace from different perspectives. Your input is valuable to us so we want to hear from you please and we will provide you with a copy of the report if you would like to receive one.

The closing date for entry is 5:30pm on Friday 28 March 2014 and we can confirm that your e-mail address will not be provided to any third party. As a thank you, one name will be picked for completing the survey and Iloumanate will pay £50.00 to the lucky winner’s charity of their choice.

As a bonus we are giving you not just one but two opportunities to feel warm and fuzzy and de-stress. You can help us and you may even help your favourite charity. What more could you ask?

Link to the survey

Thank you very much for your contribution, your help is much appreciated.

Are you normal?

A friend recently asked me “Do you think that I’m normal or do you think that I drink too much?”  Oooh that’s an awkward one.  I had heard that she could, and did, put it away on an almost nightly basis but should I tell her and risk the friendship or wave the question away Silhouette of a man holding his head next to a row of empty alcohol bottlessaying of course not?

I decided on the coward’s way out, a way that would not require me to answer either way.  I directed her to a website that I had created in collaboration with a major health board.  Go and have a look at that and see what the feedback is.

I didn’t see here for a few weeks but I heard that there had been a major transformation.  It seemed that she had stopped drinking, gone on a diet and was looking years younger.  Her colleagues at work reported that she was much more pleasant to work with and her mood, that had been at best unpredictable, was now stable and very pleasant.  So what happened? Continue reading

How much does a good night out cost you?

A couple of days ago I was chatting to a company director. We were discussing the topic of alcohol and the workplace and he was at great pains to assure me that there were no problems in his company. “Besides”, he said “we really don’t want to get into a situation where we become nannies and killjoys and dictate what our workers do in their time off. After all what they do in their own time is their business and not ours.”

Research shows that the heaviest drinking nights of the week are Saturday and Sunday with Friday a poor third. Almost inevitably this means that many of your employees will either fail to turn up on Monday morning or will turn up hung over.

“I couldn’t agree more”, I said. “However what is your reaction if what they do in their spare time affects what they do in your time? For example what if their drinking means that a/ they don’t turn up for work or b/ they do turn up but they are unfit for work? Is that your concern then?”

“Well, yes, that could cost money.”
“So would that make a difference?”
“Well, yes it would.” Continue reading

It would appear that alcohol and drugs in the workplace are acquiring a high profile as more people take an interest in the topic.  For example this is the inaugural year of a conference – Alcohol and Drug misuse at work.  The conference is being organised by the highly experienced QuayNote Conferences.  I have the honour of chairing and presenting at the conference.

Alcohol and drug misuse in and around the workplace is a sensitive and complex issue which many employers struggle to confront. While recent reports suggest that drinking cultures across both private and public sectors are stronger than ever with an increasingly high proportion of workers drinking above recommended guidelines, many companies feel ill equipped to address a problem where the roots are often embedded in the culture of their own organisation. On the one hand, alcohol misuse is a major factor behind absenteeism from work with previous surveys suggesting that over 14 million sick days occur in the UK alone from alcohol related issues and 60% of employers experience problems in the workplace related to drinking. This has a damaging effect on productivity, morale and the health of the employee.

Click here to view original web page at

Current drinking patterns in the UK

There are many myths surrounding alcohol consumption in the UK and elsewhere.  Some of them, in particular ones related to patterns of drinking and employment are scotched in a new report issued published by the BMA this week.  The new guidelines regarding drinking and the workplace issued by the BMA this week do an excellent job of summarising the current patterns of drinking in the UK and how they impact on the workplace.

Recommended limits of alcohol

The recommended limits for alcohol in the UK are up to 4 units a day for men (with at least 2 days abstinent) and up to 3 units in a day for women.  Around 35% of adults, both male and female, exceed these recommended limits on a weekly basis.  Continue reading

Alcohol problems in the workplace a growing concern, warns BMA

It would appear that te issue of alcohol in the workplace is receiving wider recognition.  This month that august body The BMA (British Medical Association) has just released new guidelines – Alcohol, drugs and the workplace; The role of medical professionals.  The BMA are

BMA guidelins Alcohol in the workplace

The British Medical Association

well-known as a very conservative organisation, certainly not prone to hyperbole.

The impact of drugs and alcohol misuse is a growing problem in the workplace, says the BMA in new guidance for clinicians designed to help employers better tackle the issues.

Drug and alcohol misuse not only lowers productivity, but it is strongly linked to ill-health and early death, says the BMA, which urges employers to make sure that any staff with substance abuse problems have access to an occupational health service. Few currently do, it says. Continue reading

Dealing with substance misuse in the workplace

In an interesting piece in HR Magazine Mary Carmichael puts the case for dealing with substance misuse in the workplace.

What happens when the problems aren’t just related to ‘festive’ and new year celebrations substance misuse in the workplacebooze, but spill over into the rest of the year? How much of a concern are these problems? What if any harder drugs are involved? And how should an employer tackle the issues?

The TUC estimates that between 3% and 5% of all work absences are due to alcohol, which costs the UK economy nearly £2 billion a year. Recent research from drug and alcohol screening provider Concateno reveals that one in 30 employees (3.23% of the 1.6 million UK employees it tested in 2011) has drugs in their system at any one time in the workplace. If that figure were extrapolated for the UK population, it would equate to 940,000 people. And a 2012 survey by law firm Blake Lapthorn found that most organisations think the use of alcohol (61%) and drugs (54%) by employees outside the office has an adverse effect on their work. Continue reading

Does your business have a current alcohol policy?

Despite the enormous costs to business of employees drinking, few employers have explicit alcohol policies Alcohol Concern report.  Why that should be is the subject of another post.

However if you are going to reduce your costs due to your employees’ drinking then an alcohol policy is an essential starting point. It is the plan that lays out your strategy and signals to the workforce that alcohol is an issue and that you are serious about addressing it. Does your business have an explicit policy? If not, why not?

This article gives a description of the main ingredients of an effective alcohol policy and some considerations to make as you write one. A more detailed description, including an exemplar policy and a detailed workbook taking you through the steps to produce the policy can be found on the free website to help HR deal with alcohol problems SPREADE. Continue reading