There are two types of drinking behavior that contribute to an increase in performance problems in the workplace.  The first of these behaviors involves drinking directly before or during work hours. An employee who drinks during their lunch break or while at a company event falls into this category.  The second behavior involves those employees who engage in heavy drinking the night before and subsequently arrive at work the next morning hungover. 

There are four major workplace issues that arise from alcohol use.  The first of these is premature death and fatal accidents.  Analyses of workplace fatalities reveal that 11% (and possibly even more) of victims had been drinking.  The next issue involves higher rates of injuries and accidents.  Workers with alcohol problems are 2.7 times more likely than workers without drinking problems to have injury related absences.  Breathalyzer tests have detected alcohol in 16% of emergency room patients who had been injured at work, and a whopping 35% of patients with a workplace injury were at-risk drinkers. The third issue workplaces face is absenteeism and extra sick leave, which in turn leads to the fourth issue- a loss of production.  One fifth of workers and managers throughout many industries report that a coworkers drinking has had a negative impact on their productivity, and worse, their safety.

And although these issues are the most commonly faced, they are only the tip of the iceberg.  The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependance lists additional problem areas including:

-Tardiness/sleeping on the job

-After-effects of substance use (hangover, withdrawal) affecting job performance

-Poor decision making

-Loss of efficiency


-Lower morale of co-workers

-Increased likelihood of having troubles with co-workers/supervisors or tasks

-Preoccupation with obtaining and using substances while at work, interfering with attention or concentration

-Illegal activities at work including selling illicit drugs to other employees

-Higher turnover

-Training of new employees

-Disciplinary procedures

And it’s not just an alcoholics workplace that is affected by their drinking.  A family member forced to deal with someone’s alcoholism may also suffer from job performance  problems including but not limited to:


-Lack of focus

-Increased health problems

-More frequent use of health insurance

It’s worth mentioning that alcoholics alone do not generate alcohol-related workplace issues. In fact, research reveals that most alcohol-related work problems are associated with nondependent drinkers who sometimes drink too much.  And all industries can be impacted by alcohol abuse, no matter their size.  The industries that alcohol use most negatively impacts however are food service, construction, mining and drilling, excavation, and maintenance and repair.

There are measures your workplace can take to help individuals whose lives have been negatively impacted by alcohol abuse.  Simply by creating an encouraging and supportive environment, employers can reduce both the negative impact of alcoholism in the workplace and any associated costs. 

According to the NCADD, establishing an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the most effective way to combat alcohol problems in the workplace.  These confidential services provide assessment, short-term counseling, and referral of employees suffering from alcohol related problems. Employers can also reduce the effects of alcohol abuse in the workplace by:

  • Providing health benefits that provide coverage for substance abuse disorders
  • Implementing written substance abuse policies
  • Reducing stigma in the workplace
  • Offering company wellness programs to educate employees about productivity and health risks created by substance abuse

Taking these steps will benefit both individual and workplace.  Research has found that alcohol programs pay for themselves.  A healthy employee is less likely to use his/her medical benefits and will be more productive while on the job.  Employers who make use of Employee Assistance Programs report improvements in morale, absenteeism, accidents, downtime, turnover, and even theft.  If your workplace is suffering from alcohol abuse, it may be time to implement an Employee Assistance Program.  Your workers will thank you. 


“Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace.” Drugs and Alcohol in the Workplace. NCADD, 26 Apr. 2015. Web. 19 Jan. 2016.