Addressing substance abuse problems in the working environment – the earlier, the better
Substance abuse problems are relatively common. Various studies show that as many as about 50% of working-age men and about 25% of women consume too much alcohol. As many as 70% of those addicted to alcohol are employed. It is the employer's responsibility to intervene if there is reason to suspect that an employee has a substance abuse problem that affects their work. Intervention is important, not only for the well-being of the individual but also from an organizational point of view; heavy alcohol consumption increases sickness absences, contributes to the risk of disability retirement and unemployment and reduces the productivity of work.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic in 2018, the Numerot puhuvat study* (in Finnish) calculated that the consumption of alcohol causes Finnish workplaces to incur annual costs of at least EUR 500 million, possibly more than EUR 1 billion. The COVID-19 epidemic, which has continued for the last two years, has caused a lot of concern about the growing scale of substance abuse problems among working-age people.
“In the light of the statistics, it appears that the number of workers who suffer from substance abuse and have access to treatment in occupational health services is lower than the actual number workers suffering from substance abuse as estimated on the basis of population surveys. We can assume that a lot of substance abuse problems currently remain hidden and will not be addressed in time,” says Matti Palomäki, Occupational Health Physician in charge of Terveystalo's substance abuse program.
“As the restrictions imposed on society are now easing, workers will be required to physically participate in the activities of the work community. Substance abuse problems that remained hidden due to working from home can come as a surprise to supervisors who should be prepared for these challenging situations,” says Palomäki.
In autumn 2021, Terveystalo developed an operating model to improve the identification, evaluation and treatment of substance abuse patients. Terveystalo also prepared online coaching for supervisors, providing information and tools for identifying substance abuse problems, addressing them and taking action at an early stage.
“Addressing issues at an early stage is important in order to minimize the impact of substance abuse problems on the working environment, occupational safety and the individual's ability to work. Speaking up about an employee’s substance abuse issues is often challenging and even awkward for the supervisor, which is why the treatment is often delayed. Setting things right requires a clear operating model from the occupational health partner, in addition to which supervisors play a major role in initiating the care pathway,” says Palomäki.
Read more articles
Occupational health psychologist's tips for a workplace wellbeing revolution
Fortunately, the stigma associated with mental health challenges is receding. In addition to the fact that employers are now more strongly directed to take care of the psychosocial stress, mental health challenges are dared to be talked about more openly and people know how to seek help for them. This is also clear from Terveystalo's statistics, where visits related to both anxiety disorders and depression have increased throughout the 2020s. Sari Nuikki, Terveystalo's leading occupational health psychologist, explains how mental well-being can be supported in the workplace with small everyday actions.
New health checks to be introduced to first locations as early as November 2023
Terveystalo is committed to continuously develope and improve preventive healthcare to provide its customers with the best possible care and treatment. We will be the first occupational health provider to use blood analysis technology developed in Finland and introduce it as part of our occupational health check-ups. We will launch the renewed health checks in some of our sites as early as November 2023. The blood analysis technology will help us to identify the risk of eight major chronic diseases from a single blood sample. Sampling is quick and easy for the customer.
AI is coming - we are ready
I argue that AI will do some of the work of a doctor in the near future. But I don't yet know what those jobs will be exactly.
How should you deal with emotions? You don't always have to talk about your feelings, says psychotherapist
Emotions are important clues, but bad advice. During Mental Health Week, we talk to Matti Isosävi, psychologist and psychotherapist at Terveystalo, about feelings - even if you don't always need to talk about them.
AI in the future of working life
Generative AI, such as Chat GPT, has brought AI into a new light recently. In particular, its impact on working life has been a topic of discussion in Finland and around the world over the past year. Ilari Richardt, Director of Digital Services at Terveystalo, shared his views on the opportunities AI brings at Terveystalo's event "Tulevaisuuden työelämän tekijät".
In the future, technology is an enabler and team problem-solving skills a way to success
We live in an era of uncertainty and rapid technological development. Generative AI will be on everyone's radar in 2023, and organisations are wondering how AI will change the way they work and do things. The rapid evolution of technology poses challenges, but at the same time creates opportunities. At Terveystalo's Future Workplace Makers event, Maria Ritola, technology influencer and founder of Iris.ai, shared her insights on how to build a good working life and harness technology to help people do their jobs.