There is need for Tanzania and other E. Africa nations to conduct research on just how much alcohol abuse is affecting workplace productivity, wasting family finances and costing the nation in general, put together, alcoholism may very well be costing E. Africa billion every year.
The harmful use of alcohol results in approximately 2.5 million deaths each year, harmful drinking can also be very costly to communities and societies.
Bhakti Shah, Managing Director at Impact Afya and Former President at American Chamber of Commerce Tanzania, says “…alcohol can be an expensive problem for business and industry ranging from lost productivity, absenteeism, injuries, fatalities and low employee morale, to an increase in health care, legal liabilities and workers compensation costs.”
However even with these risks, there is little to no research data on how much alcoholism is costing the nation. While there is a section on health data on Tanzania’s National Bureau of Statistics site, there is no information on alcoholism and its cost to personal finances, workplace productivity and national socioeconomic development.
Interestingly, while industrialized developed countries invest in these studies, implement workplace identification and rehabilitation programmes and put in place strict legal measures to protect the public, but developing countries that are still trying to industrialize, do not.
While enforcement is taxing developing countries, interestingly, even the control laws are lax; the minimum drinking age in the US is 21 years of age while in Tanzania you can drink at 18 years.
- 11 million Americans are heavy drinkers and more than 75 percent are employed full-time, and nearly half work for small businesses – DWI Resource Center
- The annual economic cost of alcohol and illicit drug misuse to Australian society is estimated at $23.7 billion – James A. Pitts CEO Odyssey House rehabilitation.
- The Australian Drug Foundation says the annual cost of absenteeism alone due to alcohol is estimated at up to $1.2billion.
- The International Labour Organisation estimates 20 to 25 per cent of all occupational injuries are a result of alcohol and other drug use.
Small businesses are the engine of the economy and yet these are the most affected by alcohol abuse.
It is vital that workplaces invest in identifying and/or supporting their addicted workers but most small businesses do not have or participate in any programs that combat employee alcohol abuse.
Consequences of Alcohol Dependence At Work
- Loss of productivity and poor performance
- Lateness and absenteeism
- Safety concernshttps://www.exchange.co.tz/china-to-fund-138-3-bn-transport-university/
- Effect on team morale and employee relations
- Bad behaviour or poor discipline
- Adverse effect on company image and customer relations
- Risky sexual behaviours and adverse pregnancy outcomes
Intervention: What SMEs Can Do?
A workplace can be an effective place to address alcoholism issues by establishing or promoting programs focused on improving health.
By encouraging and supporting treatment, employers can dramatically assist in reducing the negative impact of alcoholism and addiction in the workplace, while reducing their costs.
Establishment of an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is the most effective way to address alcohol problems in the workplace.
EAPs deal with all kinds of problems and provide short-term counseling, assessment and referral of employees with alcohol abuse problems, emotional and mental health problems, marital and family problems, dependent care concerns, and other personal problems that can affect the employees work.
This service is confidential and is usually stated by professional counselors.
Additionally, employers can address alcohol abuse by reducing stigma in the workplace and educating employees about health and productivity hazards of substance abuse through company wellness programs.
- Research has demonstrated that such measures pay for themselves in reduced healthcare costs that begin as soon as people begin recovery.
- Employers with successful Wellness and Employee Assistance Programs report improvements in morale, productivity and decreases in absenteeism, accidents and down time, turnover.
- Employers with longstanding programs also report better health status among employees and family members and decreased use of medical benefits by these same groups.
Source: Impact Afya Ltd
Bhakti Shah, MPH is the Founder and Managing Director of ImpactAfya Ltd, collaborating with Workplace Options and Mayo Clinic, USA to provide Corporate Wellness Solutions in East Africa. Bhakti is also the Immediate Past President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Tanzania and the Chair for Health Concerns for Rotary District 9211.