Substance Issues In The Corner Office: How Companies Can Support Employees

In the high-stakes world of corporate leadership, the road to the top is often paved with unrelenting pressure and a demanding workload. The corner office is a symbol of success and achievement, but it also comes with its own set of challenges, often unseen behind the closed doors of executive suites. One such challenge that is rarely talked about is substance use and its impact on employees at all levels — including leaders and executives. 

At NorthStar Transitions, we explore the often-overlooked issue of substance use in the corporate world, its effects on professionals and how companies can play a key role in supporting their employees' journey to recovery and well-being.

Substance Use Affects Employees Across All Levels

Most people associate getting the ‘corner office’ with success. It is the most coveted space in the workplace, affording both privacy and status. However, this success does not make you immune to the unrelenting pressures of stress, long hours and high expectations — all of which are risk factors for substance use. According to a report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), nearly 10% of employees in management report heavy drinking, while more than 12% struggle with illicit drug use. 

We know by now that addiction doesn’t discriminate and can affect people regardless of age, income or occupation. But C-suite executives who develop a problem with drinking or drug use are better equipped to hide their substance use. They tend to have more flexible schedules, people to cover for them and the resources to stay under the radar. If there are suspicions, they are often deflected by pointing to their accomplishments. “Look at how much I’ve achieved, there’s no way I could have a drug problem!” they might say.

“It doesn’t matter whether you spend your days in high-stakes meetings or patching drywall — addiction doesn’t discriminate.”

- Dr. Charles Shuman, Medical Director, NorthStar Transitions

Unfortunately, high-functioning addicts are still addicts, and the hidden nature of substance use at the executive level can exacerbate the problem, allowing it to go unnoticed until it becomes severe. It’s important for organizations to recognize that high-ranking positions come with a unique set of challenges and stressors that can contribute to the development of substance use disorders. Addressing these issues proactively instead of sweeping them under the rug can benefit employees’ overall health and productivity and create an environment where seeking help is not stigmatized but encouraged is crucial, especially at the top, where the impact of these problems can have widespread effects.

What Companies Can Do to Support Employees

It took a pandemic to get us here, but employers are increasingly recognizing the importance of prioritizing the mental health and wellness of their workforce. They’ve found that happy employees are more productive, less stressed and likely to stay with the company longer. Taking a proactive approach to mental health concerns like depression, anxiety and substance use also creates a healthier work environment and boosts morale. 

Whether you’re a business owner struggling with addiction, an executive in charge of a large team or someone in recovery looking for ideas to implement in your own workplace, below are some effective strategies companies can adopt to help support employees at any level who may be struggling with mental health or substance use issues.

Highlight the Resources Available to Employees

Companies need to make sure that all employees are aware of the resources available for dealing with problems like substance use. This includes promoting employee assistance programs (EAPs) that offer confidential counseling, providing information about local support groups and ensuring employees know about the company’s health insurance coverage for addiction treatment. Regular communication about these resources, perhaps through internal newsletters or dedicated wellness programs, can remove some barriers to seeking help.

Lead By Example

Leadership plays a crucial role in setting the tone for company culture. When leaders openly prioritize their own mental health and well-being, it sets a precedent for the rest of the organization. That's why talking openly about the importance of work-life balance, stress management and mental health care encourages others to do the same. This transparency helps in normalizing these conversations and dismantling the stigma around seeking help for behavioral and mental health concerns like substance use.

Rethink Happy Hour

Traditionally, happy hours have been used as a tool for team-building and unwinding after work. However, it's important to consider the impact of these events on employees who might be in recovery for drug or alcohol use, as well as those who abstain from alcohol due to personal, religious or health reasons. At best, these happy hours build some camaraderie. At worst, they promote a toxic workplace culture that revolves around drinking and put some employees in an awkward position. And, let's face it, they aren’t even that much fun. Trends show that young adults are less likely to use alcohol than previous generations, so a preference for after-work happy hours may already be a thing of the past. 

According to a report published by Berenberg Research, Gen-Z drinks 20% less than Millennials, who in turn drink less than Gen-X and Baby Boomers did at the same age. By exploring alternatives to happy hours for team-building, companies can foster a far more inclusive environment that respects the lifestyles and choices of all employees. 

Find Specialized Help at NorthStar Transitions

At NorthStar Transitions, we understand the unique challenges faced by professionals at all levels of an organization. Our Professionals Program is tailored to meet the specific needs of individuals in high-pressure careers, providing a discreet and supportive environment for recovery. We recognize that confidentiality and maintaining professional responsibilities are of utmost importance for our clients, so our program is designed to integrate treatment with your work schedule, offering increased flexibility without compromising on quality of care.

Our comprehensive approach addresses not only substance use but also the underlying stressors and mental health concerns that often accompany high-level responsibilities. With a focus on holistic recovery, our treatment plans include individual therapy, group counseling, stress management techniques and more, all tailored to fit your unique needs.

By choosing NorthStar Transitions, professionals have access to top-tier addiction treatment while maintaining their career trajectory. Our goal is to empower individuals to take back control of their lives, helping them return to their careers healthier, stronger and ready to succeed, with new coping strategies in place to support long-term recovery. 

Get Help Today

If you or someone you know in a professional setting is struggling with substance use, it's important to remember that help is available and recovery is possible. At NorthStar Transitions, we specialize in providing discreet, comprehensive treatment tailored to the unique needs of professionals. Our program offers the perfect balance between maintaining your professional responsibilities and focusing on your recovery. 

Don't let the challenges of the corporate world overshadow your health and well-being. Reach out to NorthStar Transitions today by calling 866-407-2240 or completing our online contact form to learn more about our Professionals Program and take the first step toward a healthier, more balanced life.

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