Tackling Opioids in the Workplace

(Note: This guest piece was written by Tiffany Cardwell, Human Resources Consulting Principal, Mountjoy Chilton Medley and Director of Wellness, Louisville Society of Human Resources Management)

Tiffany Cardwell is a member of the KHC’s Worksite Addiction Group.

Opioids in the workplace is a topic that often gives pause for human resource professionals. The pause occurs since there are so many taboos and unknowns surrounding this issue for employers—no matter the size and no matter the industry. For the past year, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to work with a talented team of experts through the KHC to create a toolkit for employers for supporting opioid prevention, treatment and recovery. Monthly meetings were held to focus on creating a tool for employers and their managers to assist with addressing opioids in the workplace. The toolkit was released last month at a half-day event where area employers explored the toolkit’s application and other relevant topics.

As an HR practitioner, I wasn’t quite sure what I would be able to add to the many experts who were involved with this initiative. What I quickly discovered is that everyone is in a continuous learning process with the subject matter of opioids. Although we had expert clinicians who have been practicing in the field for years, I was able to provide some insights from an HR professional consulting with managers daily who are doing their best to combat this issue. Although I do not have a clinical background, it was great to be able to share how we can create tools that employers will find easy to use and helpful as they address concerns with their direct reports.

Out of all of our discussions, I found it most helpful to become more educated about the definitions surrounding opioids. Using common language to speak with managers and employees provides clarity for this complicated workplace issue. Open communication is also key to successfully tackling opioids in the workplace. The more employees and employers are comfortable discussing this issue with each other, the quicker resolutions can be made to assist the employee to return back to work and effectively assist them through recovery.

If you have not downloaded your copy of the employer toolkit or reviewed it online, I encourage you to do so. Even if you’re not running into this issue now, it is helpful to proactively gain understanding about what you may run into in the future.