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Reducing the Impact of Drug and Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

Reducing the Impact of Drug and Alcohol Misuse in the Workplace

Drug and Alcohol misuse can have significant consequences for workplaces.

If you’re a line manager, supervisor, team leader, HR representative, or anyone who oversees staff in the workplace, you may not realise what an essential role you can play in reducing substance abuse. Working closely with employees, you’re in the ideal position to be able to identify the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug abuse, and help implement preventative strategies.

According to the Health and Safety Executive, “alcohol is a factor in up to 1 in 4 accidents in the workplace and responsible for 3-5% of work absences, totalling more than 11 million lost working days each year and over £6 billion lost in productivity”.

In addition to this, the CPD found that around a third of employers have disciplined someone in the past 2 years for substance misuse.

Just one person in a workplace who is affected by drugs and alcohol can increase risk for the entire team. Addressing this issue before it becomes a problem is key. Before we can fully explore how you can help, we need to consider why people misuse substances and what the workplace impact can be.

(When we refer to ‘drugs’ this includes caffeine and nicotine as well as legal and illegal medicines and alcohol as any drug can be harmful if misused).

Why do people take drugs?

Drugs and Alcohol

A person taking a drug may have many different reasons for using that drug, many of them legal and reasonable. However, any drug has the potential to be misused and therefore have negative implications for an employee’s work and their workplace.  Reasons people may take drugs include:

  • Medical Needs
  • Dependence
  • Self-Medication
  • Recreation
  • Pain Relief
  • Physical improvement
  • Stress Relief
  • Emotional support
  • Habit
  • Performance Enhancement
  • Mental Health
  • Peer Pressure
  • Habit

Drug misuse occurs when a drug is used in a way that can affect work performance, conduct or when using compromises the health and safety of oneself and others.

Why are drugs and alcohol an issue for the workplace?

Misusing drugs can have a big impact, on an individual’s health, on society and consequently on the workplace.

The side effects of drug and alcohol misuse are wide and varied. In the workplace they may affect a person’s perception and the way they think and feel which can impair concentration and judgement and put themselves and others at risk of accidents. Even drugs such as alcohol and painkillers can affect an individual’s ability to drive or operate machinery for some time after consumption.

Employee health and wellbeing is central to a business and when organisations fail to manage substance abuse properly, they may experience:

  • Reduced productivity levels
  • Increased illness in staff leading to higher levels of absence
  • A loss of morale in the organisation
  • Damage to the reputation of the company and its owners
  • Broken relationships between employees, managers, and customers
  • Accidents in the workplace
  • Legal costs

Physical and mental health in the workplace have become increasingly important for employers and employees and substance misuse can affect both. Increasing drug awareness in the workplace helps to reduce illness, accidents and injuries relating to substance misuse and increases health, wellness, and productivity.

An organisation that supports employees to make healthier choices is more likely to prosper, bringing greater benefits for all.

How can I help?


Everyone has a responsibility to be aware of the risks of substance abuse and how to minimise the impact it can have. As employees spend so much of their lives at work, workplaces present great opportunities for early detection, intervention, and support.

In addition to upholding their key responsibilities under the law relating to drugs and alcohol, managers are at the forefront for prevention and it’s essential that they have the skills and knowledge to identify and manage problems as they arise. Taking a proactive approach benefits everyone.

In essence, if workplaces have the policies and procedures to handle drug and alcohol misuse properly, they can become settings that can promote the health of workers and influence the health of their families and community.

As a manager, it’s important that you educate yourself and receive the correct Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training to allow you to identify and tackle substance misuse issues as they arise.

You could also consider becoming involved in promoting and supporting employee wellbeing through using advisory services, notice boards, awareness days and health campaigns such as Dry January or Stoptober.

For additional information and resources, you could contact:

NHS Resources




If you’re interested in Drug and Alcohol Awareness Training for Managers or Employees, have a look at our online courses, relaunched for 2022 with all the information you need to help you understand and identify the potential signs and risks of misuse, and offer support to address potential issues.

You may also like to consider other courses from our Health and Wellbeing Course Catalogue including our popular Mental Health Awareness Mental Health Awareness Online Course.

Taking Care of Your Mental Health this Christmas

Taking Care of Your Mental Health this Christmas

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year?

For most people, the last two years have been a rollercoaster of experiences and emotions with highs, lows, and everything in between. Our lives have been nothing like we’ve ever experienced before. With the daily news bringing us more changes and concerns, some people are really struggling to cope.

Here at REALSENSE, we’ve noticed a significant increase in demand from our customers for training courses that support Mental Health Awareness and employee wellbeing, showing us that staying well mentally and emotionally, as well as physically, is at the forefront of many people’s minds.

With the festive season in full swing, according to the Mental Health Foundation, “Christmas can be a joyful time of year for some people, through connecting to people they love and joining in with celebrations. And it can be a hard time of year for others, through feelings of obligation and over-commitment to social plans, disruption in routine or an increase in feelings of loneliness and isolation”.

With this in mind, we’ve put together some that simple tips can help you feel more in control, reduce stress levels and help you take care of your mental health in the coming weeks.

Tips for Coping During the Christmas Period

Communicate / Manage Relationships

For many people, Christmas can be a time when difficult relationships are revisited and old tensions can resurface. As well as worrying about preparing and providing food and buying the best gifts, it can be a challenging time for people who have strained relationships with their wider family, those who suffer anxiety, or people with financial worries.

Set a baseline that feels comfortable for you; whether that’s setting a budget to spend on presents, asking your family to comply with Covid restrictions or letting colleagues know that you won’t be sending Christmas cards this year, anything that you can do to manage people’s expectations and avoid confusion is all beneficial to reducing your stress levels. Keep the lines of communication open.

Think in advance about how you might handle difficult conversations and practice how to ask someone to change the subject if there’s a topic you don’t feel comfortable with. Why not think about some answers you could give if there are questions you know might be asked that make you feel uncomfortable.

Think about easy group activities that everyone can get involved in that will help to reduce tension and provide a distraction from any controversial topics. And remember that it’s OK to let people know if you’re struggling and need help, whether that’s physically or emotionally.

Make Plans

Writing a ‘to do’ list can help many people to cope because it helps you to plan your time more efficiently. There’s a great deal of expectation at this time of year for things to be ‘perfect’ and many people find Christmas incredibly stressful with not enough time to get everything done. We can find ourselves juggling numerous tasks on top of an already busy work, home and social calendar. Evaluate the essential tasks, prioritise the things that really need doing, delegate jobs where possible and give yourself permission to say no to the rest and cross them off the list. More importantly, make sure your planning allows time for you to relax, rest and enjoy the season.

Remember that it’s not worth sacrificing your mental health in the pursuit of perfection.

Prioritise your own self-care by putting time aside for a hot bath, a nice walk, some exercise or to watch your favourite movie. Whatever helps you feel relaxed and content, remember this is your Christmas too.

Be Aware of Alcohol Intake

Studies show that more than one in five people have been drinking more since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic so be mindful of your alcohol intake over the Christmas period.  We’ll be looking at this more detail in the new year when we relaunch our Drugs and Alcohol Awareness Online Training Course but it’s certainly something to be mindful of over the Christmas holidays. Drink Aware have produced 12 Tips to Stay Safe This Christmas to help you enjoy the Christmas holidays but keep your health risks from alcohol low.

Make Time For Exercise

Exercise can help combat stress by releasing endorphins (the body’s feel good hormone). Regular exercising over the festive period can help improve your mental health and ensure you’re less stressed and more able to cope with pressures and demands.

Find an activity you enjoy doing – walking the dog, raking leaves in the garden, a family walk in a frosty forest, anything that gets you up off the sofa and outside – even half an hour of exercise is really beneficial.

Mental Health at Christmas

Working from home at Christmastime

For a number of our customers, working from home has now become a more permanent fixture of their lives and it works well. For others, the sudden move back to working from home with Christmas around the corner can be difficult to navigate.

We developed our Homeworking Online Training to support employees working from home and to help employers maintain their duty of care to all staff. The following hints and tips are aimed more specifically at supporting homeworkers although all of them are beneficial for anyone, wherever you may be working.

Stay in Touch

Keeping in touch with the rest of your team, whether that’s by email, phone or video call is really important. Human beings are social creatures and home working can feel especially isolating at this time of year. Why not suggest a team Christmas quiz or drinks on video call, or even meet a colleague face to face if you can, wrap up warm and go for a walk in the fresh air with a hot drink and let them know how you’re feeling.

Make sure you speak to someone outside your home at least once per day. Talking to other people can help support mood and wellbeing and the old saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is well worth remembering.

Get Some Fresh Air

If you can’t meet someone for a walk, what’s stopping you from getting out there by yourself and having a quick walk around the block before work or in your lunchbreak? (Apart from the great British weather – although that’s what umbrellas and waterproofs are for). Use the time mindfully to notice your surroundings and focus on your breathing or listen to a funny podcast or some uplifting music while you walk. Even 20 minutes per day can make a big difference, with a brisk walk proven to reduce stress and increase concentration levels.

Set Boundaries

The boundaries between home and work have become very blurred over the last couple of years,  with research by Aviva finding that more than 50% of home workers struggle to switch off from work or keep their home life separate from work. ‘Finishing work’ for the day has become a grey area and home and work life can quickly merge into one. Earlier this year, I spoke to psychotherapist Andy Flack about the importance of building boundaries as an important behavioural aspect of mental health self-care.

Andy suggested setting an alarm to signify the end of the working day and then ‘closing the door’ on the home office once you finish work. And if like many people, your work space is in your dining room or bedroom, even the act of putting a blanket over your desk at the end of the day can help signal the transition to your brain and help you to switch off from work.

Digital Detox

Once you finish work, turn off your computer and phone and try to enjoy your home environment without social media or digital distractions. Some people choose a specific evening – or even a whole weekend – where they step away from all devices with the aim of reconnecting with themselves and the people around them.

The benefits of a digital detox can include:

  • Reducing stress
  • Allowing for a more positive perspective on life without the overwhelming constant bombardment of social media
  • Better sleep – anxiety, insomnia and stress have all been linked to scrolling social media in bed at night and the blue light emitted from devices can also affect serotonin levels and disrupt your sleeping pattern
  • Avoid comparing your life to other people – constantly checking your phone to check you haven’t missed a text, email or notification can increase stress levels and waste a lot of time! Additionally, checking your newsfeed and constantly seeing pictures and videos of other people’s lives can create anxiety, lower self-esteem and distract us from focusing on the present moment and the people around us. Knowing your device is off and you’re not contactable can bring peace of mind, an increased feeling of calmness and allows you to be more mindful and enjoy the present moment which is incredibly beneficial for mental wellbeing.

If a full digital detox seems too much for you right now, why not work towards it by setting yourself a goal of turning your phone off at a certain time every night (or putting it in aeroplane mode). This in itself can help improve mental health and restfulness, reduce stress levels and allow you some breathing space from the pressures and demands of digital life.

Treat Yourself

A nice meal at lunchtime, a candlelit bath in the evening, a new outfit, taking some time out to meditate or buying yourself a new book. There’s not been a lot to look forward to in recent times but even little things can help. Today I’m wearing my new sparkly Christmas tree earrings, even if they’ll only be seen on a screen during a Teams or Zoom call, sometimes it’s the little things that can give us a lift!

Further help is available

In this article, we’ve covered some of the most basic hints and tips for helping you stay mentally well, but for some people more help and support is needed, especially at Christmas.

The following organisations can all offer guidance and resources at any time of the year;

  • The or call 116123
  • or call 0300 123 3393
  • CALM or call 0800 58 58 58
  • Your GP surgery can be contacted for help and support or dial 111, or 999 if it’s an emergency.
Top Tips for Working From Home

Top Tips for Working From Home

With the Topic of Working from Home still dominating the news, it seems that many people have become more permanent homeworkers, at least for a part of their working week. As the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggests that working from home is one of the best ways of impacting the spread of Covid-19, it’s possible that more people may find themselves back in their home offices (or at their dining room tables!) as Winter approaches.

Our Home Working Online Training has been one of our most requested courses in the last 18 months, with users telling us that they have benefited from the guidance it provides to make their working day as productive as possible, and to help them strike a work/life balance. Here, we take a look at some of the hints and tips the course provides, and the ways in which homeworkers can ensure that they remain effective and efficient employees. Our hints and tips are also available in a free, downloadable PDF which you can keep and then refer to as required.

Download our FREE PDF for Tips for Healthy Homeworking

Top Tips for Working from Home

Manage Your Time

To help minimise stress, try to identify and prioritise your most important tasks and make a to-do list. Some people find that using SMART helps them to do this – making sure goals are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.

Create a Working From Home Routine

Start and end your work day with a routine. Set your alarm, get dressed and make sure you are at your desk with everything you need ready to start work. When possible, try to take your lunch break at the same time each day and even build in time a walk or some meditation to help break your day into manageable chunks.

Get some Fresh Air

Making sure you leave the house, breathe in some fresh air, and have a change of scene at least once a day (ideally more) is important for mental well-being. You could go for walk, run, cycle, or even just stretch your legs.


Don’t be too task-focused if you have people reporting to you or when working closely with colleagues, remember to ask how they are and be interested in what they have to say. Homeworking can be challenging for people in different ways so talk and share your thoughts with your colleagues.

Think about Your Workspace

Try to make sure your workspace is away from the main living area of your home, although ideally not in a bedroom. Lots of light and a plant can help to create a positive work atmosphere.

Make sure your chair is set up correctly to support your posture to avoid aches, pains and strains, and check that your equipment is working correctly and not hindering your work. You need to be comfortable while working and ensure you take regular breaks to minimise static movement.

Take Regular Breaks and Exercise

Move about and stretch, get some fresh air outdoors, go up and down the stairs – anything that will get your body moving. Set yourself alarms to remind you to get up from your desk and move. Have you re-evaluated your fitness routine since restrictions began to lift? Many gyms and classes have now reopened and others continue to offer online fitness programmes and training. You could also consider Pilates or Yoga to help with flexibility and aches and pains.

Focus on Food and Nutrition

Give some thought to preparing your food for the week and try to make meals simple and easy to put together for those times when a video call may go on longer than expected. It’s easy to forget to eat or miss your lunch break completely when working from home so make a real effort to do so, even set an alarm if this helps.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day (some people find that using a reusable water bottle with markings or timings on it helps them to stay on track) and try to choose healthy snacks.

Minimise Distractions

Good productivity is usually best achieved by focusing on one task at a time. Why not put your phone on silent or out of the way whilst you concentrate on certain projects, or use a ‘do not disturb’ setting on messenger apps.

Try to work in a quiet area of the house where outside noise is less of a distraction and be sensible about internal noise in the house such as the washing machine spinning when you are taking calls.

Get Out and Socialise

Make sure you get out of the house and see people, see if you can arrange face to face meetings with colleagues (socially distanced if necessary) or even arrange to meet them socially if you live near to each other. Even wrapping up warm and taking a brisk autumnal walk with a colleague while discussing a project you’re working on together can work for some people.

Staying in regular contact with your colleagues is really important to ensure that you still feel a part of the team and avoid feeling isolated. Share your own thoughts and ideas with your colleagues about how to best make working from home work for all of you.

For further information, help and support, have a look at our Home Working Course, it takes about 30 minutes to complete and is the ideal tool for those adapting to working from home.

If you need more support or guidance, check out our Health and Wellbeing catalogue which includes lots of other courses you may be interested in, including our most popular course, Mental Health Awareness Training.