How are you doing? Pandemic, Home office and Addiction

On March 12, 2020, the Norwegian government launched a series of measures in the hope of stopping the Corona virus. The measures were the strongest and most intrusive we have had in Norway in peacetime. One of the measures implemented was that everyone who had the opportunity to work from home was strongly recommended to do so.

Many people say that being able to work from home gives them the experience of increased autonomy by controlling their own working day. At the same time, research on job satisfaction, motivation and performance, state that home office during the pandemic might be demotivating to some – primarily because it is forced and long-lasting.

Forced home office, closed schools and kindergartens, turned many homes into multi- functional arenas, serving as workplace, school and kindergarten at the same time.

Changed routines, lack of social interaction and less support and communication with the manager, can lead to an experience of loneliness, frustration and insecurity. We handle such changes differently, and for some, an existing problem may be exacerbated. Mental issues become more challenging, and families who have challenges related to drug abuse, mental and physical violence, will experience greater problems when they have to spend their entire day at home with their family. Drinking alcohol, using drugs or gambling can be a way for some to cope with a difficult situation.

The question many have asked themselves is how dangerous the combination of home office and alcohol is, and how big is the risk is for increased consumption? On the one hand, people have reduced social life, there is less partying and fewer gatherings during the pandemic. This can lead to less alcohol consumption. Some will drink less because they have poorer finances due to lower incomes because of layoffs and redundancies. On the other hand, social isolation, worries and stress can cause some people to drink more alcohol to cope with a demanding situation, or to reward themselves.  As we have never before experienced such a lock-down of society, we have nothing to compare it with. What we know is that most of the alcohol use has moved from the public arena to private homes, and therefore makes the consumption less visible and more difficult to get an overview of.

The workplace often has a positive effect on employees with substance abuse and gambling problems, also for those who are at risk of developing such problems. At home, this effect is missing. In the workplace, there are clear and restrictive rules that say that it is not acceptable to be influenced by alcohol and drugs at work. Furthermore, company policies state that it is not permitted to use drugs or gamble during working hours. In addition, managers and safety representatives are responsible for ensuring that employees are suitable for carrying out their work, and that health, safety and the environment are taken care of.

For people with substance abuse and gambling problems, the job can be an important factor when it comes to controlling their addiction. For employees who receive follow-up through an individual Akan agreement, being at work with fixed routines, known tasks and a social community is a valuable support during treatment. In addition, regular meetings are important, and being seen by their manager is a strong motivational factor to follow the Akan agreement and treatment.

The number of inquiries to Akan increased by 20 per cent in the period from March 13 to September 30.

Early symptoms of abuse are similar to symptoms we see in employees who are not feeling well for other reasons, such as stress, mental illness or various life crises. Signs we often see at an early stage are changes in behavior and changes in work performance. A third sign is changes in absence, but this is not as relevant when it comes to home office.

It is more difficult to see each other and to understand how employees are feeling when they are working from home, it requires focused managers to detect warning signals. Therefore, we must find other ways to meet and new ways to lead. For home office and remote management over time, we have the following recommendations:

  • Maintain regular routines and meeting points
  • The company’s policy for drug use and gambling also applies in the home office
  • Continue with regular meetings, employee dialogues and staff meetings. This creates opportunities to meet colleagues, experience companionship and to be seen. It also gives managers the opportunity to notice changes in behavior or other changes.
  • Regular conversations between manager and employee are more important than ever. Together with the employee, the manager should set up a structure for regular follow-up and conversations. In addition to follow up work tasks, the purpose is to find out  how the employee is feeling, and to clarify what kind of follow up and support the employee need.
  • Take initiative for informal video meetings such as morning coffee, lunch meetings, etc.
  • Use camera when having digital meetings. It provides a better opportunity to see changes in behavior and appearance.
  • Talk about what it is like to work from home. If someone expresses that they have challenges or you are worried, you must dare to ask.

It is important than we choose openness over silence. We all have a responsibility to handle the changes and create as much safety and stability as possible. It is challenging for managers to follow up their employees in  home office over time. You should be aware of signs when you are have video meetings or talking on the phone. React immediately if you see worrying changes in a colleague. The manager should reach out to the employee, and check how he or she is doing.

Are you worried about a colleague who you think might be struggling with an addiction, or are you struggling yourself? Please contact:

  • Aker Care: 40 00 48 50
  • Akan: 22 40 28 00