Organization culture can contribute to substance abuse problems


The use of substances is not a new phenomenon, as throughout the ages people have been intrigued by changing everyday reality with various chemical substances. Majority of the working-age population uses intoxicants, but mainly for controlled and moderate recreational use, which does not cause significant problems. On the other hand, certain factors in working life also increase the risk of substance abuse. In this case, the organization culture is important: does the culture support recovery with non-intoxicating means and encourages sensitive handling of deviations, or does it perhaps feed possible substance abuse problems.

After work työkavereiden kanssa

The risks of using substances are partly related to a hereditary predisposition, but the work environment can also increase the risks. Irregular working hours or work that requires travel is one of the risk factors in the work environment. Also in some cases the workload as a whole can be perceived as too high and intoxicants are then used to manage stress. Hard work - hard play is an established provebr, but "play" heavily fuelled with intoxicants does not offer recovery.

– In reality, intoxicants lower recovery and sleep quality, increase anxiety and depression, which in turn worsens work stress. Every leader should think about how the culture of their own organization guides recovery and de-stressing. Is it customary in the work community to balance everyday stress with afterwork and on Fridays to reset the work week with a intoxicant-saturated evening out, or does the organization culture support drug-free recovery methods, such as adequate night sleep and exercise, asks Terveystalo's occupational health doctor Matti Palomäki.

During the festive season, workplaces also often offer work-related events that expose to the use of intoxicants. Especially after such a longer period of avoiding gatherings, we embrace and need opportunities to meet coworkers in an informal setting, in which the party drinks quite often contain alcohol.

– As long as the limits of safe alcohol use are not exceeded, alcohol being a legal intoxicant and consumed in moderation, can indeed in accordance with its nickname, be a joy juice that creates a relaxed atmosphere. In addition, it would be good to always have a non-alcoholic option naturally available at workplace parties, and it should be part of the organization's culture that there is no pressure to use intoxicants. In an ideal situation, everyone is also aware of their own organization's substance abuse program, and possible excesses are dared to be dealt with sensitively, says Palomäki.

Supervisors have a responsible duty to raise suspicions of substance abuse. This is often difficult, which is why Terveystalo has developed a checklist to support supervisors. The list contains signals that can be noticed in a person struggling with substance abuse problems. With the help of the checklist, it is possible for the supervisor to make an overall assessment of the situation and take action.

– Sometimes the substance abuse problem can be overlooked for too long. Especially if the culture includes treating excesses as a joke and hiding work performance among co-workers for fear of being caught, so to speak. This is a disservice to the person with a substance abuse problem, because the sooner the matter is addressed, the less likely the problem will cause destruction to the individual and the work community. In this case, trust is emphasized in the culture - you have to dare to raise the matter as soon as the concern arises, says Palomäki.

Download the free checklist here

Please note that the early signals in the checklist can also indicate other health deterioration or stress related to work or leisure time. Although it is not necessarily a question of problematic use of substances, the list nevertheless gives certainty to talk with the employee about what the signals can tell.

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