Workers Often Distracted by Addiction Woes

March 31, 2005 ( - More than one-third (36%) of employees in a new survey reported that a coworkers had been distracted, less productive, or missed work because of alcohol/drug abuse or addiction in their family.

A news release from the Minnesota-based Hazelden Foundation, an addiction recovery organization, said that more than two-thirds of employees (69%) reported that if a family member were struggling with alcohol or other drug problems, it would hurt their ability to be productive at work.

In addition, a quarter (26%) of American employees reported actual drug/alcohol abuse or addiction within their family. Of these employees, 42% reported being distracted and less productive at work because of their family member’s addiction.

“We’ve always known that substance abuse and addiction affect entire families, not just individuals, but this survey sheds new light on the repercussions for employers and workplace productivity,” said Tom Galligan, Hazelden chief market development officer. “The growing problem of presenteeism for many companies is fueled by substance abuse and untreated addiction in an employee’s family.”

Additional survey findings include:

  • Of the employees with family substance abuse or addiction who reported being distracted or less productive at work because of it, nine in 10 said their mind drifted away from work to thoughts of their addicted family member. Meanwhile, 57% said they missed a deadline or work/attendance suffered and 46% said they made errors in judgment that they normally would not have made. Most strikingly, 14% said the addiction in their family made them forget safety or security procedures.
  • Of the 26% of employees that reported substance abuse or addiction in their family, 79% said it involved an immediate family member.
  • Nearly half (47%) of employees said they would use their company’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP) to get help if they were struggling with abuse or addiction issues. But one in five (19%) said they weren’t sure if their employer even had an EAP while another 19% said their employer had no EAP function.
  • Nearly three-fourths (73%) of employees surveyed said employers should offer counseling for family members of addicted individuals, not just to addicted people; 67% said that employers should provide better health insurance coverage that would pay more for treatment of drug addiction by family members; and 65% said employers should provide a more flexible work schedule so workers could tend to the treatment of an addicted family member.

The Hazelden findings are drawn from a new nationwide telephone survey of 1,190 employed individuals conducted in January 2005 for Hazelden by Ipsos-Worldwide.

With this new survey Hazelden also introduced a new brochure on ways to deal with the problem, Five Steps That Employers and Employees Can Take .