Building Better Habits: Addressing substance use at work and at home

A manager supports an employee with a hand on the shoulder during a stressful time at work.

Welcome to LifeSpeak’s total wellbeing guide to building better habits!

Every week in January, this guide will tackle a different area of wellbeing and offer strategies to help you and your employees build the skills to support their continued personal and professional growth.

Healthy life skills are the foundation of a happy life. It would be easy if we could snap our fingers and suddenly have a consistent sleep routine or a nutritious diet. But we can’t. The good news is that forming a new habit isn’t impossible either. With the right support, anyone can do it.


Week 4: Supporting substance use challenges at work and home

No one wants to talk about it.

Some people are afraid of what others will think. Will they lose their social life? Their job? Or the support of their friends? Others might not be ready to admit they are struggling.

Substance use is a prevalent challenge in workplaces around the world. In many cases it remains hidden, creating the false impression that it doesn’t exist.

According to the Addiction Center, 70% of Americans struggling with substance use are employed. The U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) says more than 90% of people with substance use issues don’t get help; 45% don’t get help because of job concerns or stigma.

These challenges culminate in a surprising cost for employers. Before the pandemic, substance use disorders cost US employers $81 billion per year through absenteeism, accidents, lost productivity, and healthcare.

This week our experts will help employees create better habits in the workplace and in their personal lives to support others struggling with substance use.

How to create a supportive workplace

Let’s face it: no one wants to go to their boss and say, “Hey, I’m struggling with my drinking. Can you help me out?”

In his LifeSpeak video series, Dr. Adi Jaffe advises employers to focus on creating a work environment where people feel comfortable talking about these things.

To help nurture a sensitive, supportive environment, employers can set up a system where employees can talk about their challenges with complete confidentiality and without worrying about job-related repercussions. It can often help for them to be able to engage with someone not directly related to their chain of command, such as an HR advisor.

Managers should remember that people hold a lot of preconceived notions about substance use. Some believe these issues mean a person is weak-willed or immoral. Employers and employees need education and training to reduce shame and stigma, two huge impediments to a supportive workplace.

Compassion and understanding can go a long way in supporting those struggling with substance use, and any challenges related to health or mental health. As employers, it’s not always our job to recognize the specifics of what someone is going through. But having open conversations with teams about these issues and letting them know of the benefits or workplace supports that they can access, can go a long way in creating a supportive environment.

How to help a loved one

In her LifeSpeak video, Supporting a friend or loved one with drug use issues, resilience and recovery expert Shahnaz Khawaja says supporting a loved one may look different for everyone. The situation can be challenging, scary, and painful for everyone involved.

Here are two key strategies to consider when helping a loved one with their substance use challenges:

  1. Seek support for yourself.

Engaging with someone on this topic can be stressful. Talking to a professional can provide a safe space to process fears and concerns. It can also provide the tools to help you speak to your loved one; saying the right thing in the wrong way can shut down dialogue or spark argument.

  1. Consider harm reduction strategies.

Abstinence isn’t always effective. Meet a loved one where they are emotionally and mentally and remember that progress isn’t always linear. And oftentimes small changes in consumption (known as harm reduction) can go a long way. Support your loved one through the ups and downs by letting them move at their own pace.

Looking for more substance use support?

ALAViDA, a product of LifeSpeak Inc., leverages internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (iCBT) to create customized plans and programs for individuals struggling with substance use. It connects employees to a personalized care team they can text or meet securely from home.

Learn more about ALAViDA.

Simple strategies to build better habits in all areas!

Over the past four weeks, our guide to Building Better Habits examined four key areas of wellbeing with expert insight. In addition to substance use, we’ve discussed how to:

But that’s only a snapshot of what LifeSpeak can do.

The LifeSpeak platform provides expert-led education and strategies that help employees and organizations achieve better mental health and overall wellbeing.

Combining preventative education from the world’s top experts with human support, LifeSpeak makes it easy for anyone to improve their overall wellbeing. Get unlimited access to thousands of micro-learning videos and other resources anytime and anywhere on any mobile or desktop device to bridge the gap between unaddressed mental health challenges and clinical interventions.

Want to learn more? Book a demo today.