United States Department of Labor data shows six percent of Americans aged 12 or older used drugs within the past month, and use is greater in those between the ages of 16 and 25 – the segment of the population joining the workforce at the highest rate. In addition, 14 percent of United States workers say they fit the description of a “heavy drinker,” and of this group, nearly 30 percent reported they also used illicit drugs, and a growing number are turning to prescription drugs like pain pills.

Employees who do not abuse drugs or alcohol may shy away from an employer that does not drug test because they desire a safe workplace where every employee is expected to arrive on time and perform their duties adequately.

Here are some tips for building an environment that will attract non-substance abusing employees and keep existing workers engaged, happy and productive:

Quest for the best may include a social media check-up


A recent survey conducted by Harris Interactive for the on line job seeking resource, CareerBuilder, indicated that 37 percent of companies use social media sites like Facebook to learn more about applicants. Most hiring managers used the sites to determine how an applicant presents themselves. Applicants who post multiple photos of themselves imbibing in alcohol or in some altered state of mind show a potential employer that they may not represent the firm well and may have a substance abuse problem.


A more personal management style


Managers do not have to be every worker’s best friend, but getting a little personal can go a long way toward building trust. Join the staff in common break and lunch areas and strike up conversations about their families, points of personal interest or memberships in community organizations. Knowing these details gives you something besides work to talk about with your employees, and these interactions make workers more comfortable expressing ideas or concerns down the road.


Stay positive


It doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money to make an employee happy with their work situation. Sending an email to thank an employee for working overtime goes a long way toward boosting morale, as does listening to workers and seeking their opinions. If an employee is having difficulty executing a new part of their existing job, reach out to that individual. Discuss the problem together and decide on an action plan that may include additional training to help improve performance. These are just a few ways to show employees they are valued, and valued employees tend to stick around longer than those who feel unappreciated.

Know when something is wrong


The National Institute on Drug Abuse reports that there are many tell-tale signs of problematic substance use. Those who have troubles linked to drug and alcohol use may display a marked decline in personal hygiene. They may always appear tired or irritable, miss important work deadlines, take many unscheduled breaks or disappear from the work site for unusually long periods of time.



Set clear expectations through education



Inform workers about exactly what is expected at work and consequences of violating the substance abuse policies. Provide new employees with copies of the policies and ask them to sign a contract acknowledging they understand the repercussions of violating them. Offer ongoing company-wide programs that educate workers about the dangers of substance abuse in the workplace in addition to other health initiatives.


Why random drug testing?


Some employers prefer random drug testing over other methods because while there is no way for workers to know when they may be tested, everyone on staff understands they will be tested at some point. This illustrates that the company holds employees at all levels equally responsible for following the firm’s substance abuse policies. Random testing also shows the company is committed to eradicating substance abuse in its workforce all the time, not just when an accident occurs or a new hire joins the team.

Creating a safe and supportive environment for all workers takes a multi-pronged approach that must take variables such as size of the workforce into consideration, but overall, getting solid substance abuse policies and programs in place plays a major role in making that happen.


Karen Kitchen

Karen Kitchen, is the owner of USA Mobile Drug Testing of Cleveland, providing 24/7 on-site drug and alcohol testing throughout Cleveland and surrounding areas. USAMDT of Cleveland has met the strict criteria of the Ohio’s Drug-free Safety Programs; the gold standard in the industry.

Tess Taylor

Tess Taylor is the Founder and CEO of HR Knows

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