The pandemic has impacted every person and business on the planet, in one way or another. Some people and companies have benefited from the pandemic, while others have struggled immensely. We’ve all had to make adjustments and for some, one of those adjustments has been to work remotely. In order to stay safe, businesses that could accommodate the change now allow their employees to work from home.
While working at home certainly has its perks, it does come with some additional challenges we may not be prepared to overcome. The freedom or monotony, depending how you see it, of not having to leave the house changes so many of the decisions we make. That’s why right now a lot of people are struggling to lose weight, quit drinking alcohol, stop using drugs, or fix some other bad habit they developed while working out of their house.
Mislabeling As A Pandemic Problem
The first problem that causes people to overlook substance abuse nowadays is that it gets blamed on the stress of the pandemic. The pandemic is the reason people are working from home, however, it is not the main reason for the spike in substance abuse cases.
So, why is it important that we identify the real reasons for the problems people have when they want to quit drinking alcohol? Because if we are going to fix a problem, we have to know why it’s getting worse. If you are home all day and night, there is a new list of challenges that you have to understand if you are going to learn how to quit drinking alcohol.
Difficulties With A Fading Work-Life Balance
One misconception people have about working from home is that you have a ton more free time. The irony is not necessarily the case. Oftentimes, remote employees may find their personal and professional lives blended together when their home and work environments are combined. There may also be an increased work volume or the pressure to be available outside regular office hours, which can make it even more difficult to achieve balance.
The added stress of working from home and the diminished work-life balance that can sometimes result from it can also lead to the exacerbation of a difficulty with moderation in drinking. Reduced social interaction or the feeling of cabin fever can further worsen this struggle and unintentionally result in excessive drinking as a coping mechanism.
Harder To See The Issues
One of the reasons people who are working from home struggle with weight gain, substance abuse, and other issues is because it’s harder to see these issues as they are unfolding. Working from your house, you’re probably wearing gym clothes or pajamas, so how are you going to notice if you gain a few extra pounds? Can you have a few more drinks since you don’t have to worry about driving? It’s also harder for others to notice if you are overindulging because you are not spending time with them in person like you were pre-pandemic. There’s no one to suggest that you might need to quit drinking alcohol.
The Latest Research on the Relationship Between Work-From-Home and Substance Abuse
The most recent studies continue to indicate working from home during the pandemic may be associated with increased risky drinking and drug use:
- A 2021 study found the prevalence of binge drinking, heavy drinking, and cannabis use increased significantly among working adults during the transition to remote work in early COVID-19 lockdowns (1).
- Analysis of survey data collected during 2020 found 14% of remote workers reported increased substance use compared to only 6% of onsite workers (2).
- A review of multiple studies concluded that relaxed monitoring of employees and lack of structured routines at home contribute to more risky drinking and drug habits while working remotely (3).
Potential factors driving this trend include isolation, stress, blurring of work/life boundaries, and more opportunity to drink and use drugs undetected at home. However, not all remote employees are impacted equally. Those with pre-existing substance abuse risk, mental health vulnerabilities, younger employees, and parents juggling childcare appear most affected (4).
As remote and hybrid work persists, employers can help mitigate risks through frequent check-ins, emphasizing that EAP resources are still available 24/7, scheduling video meetings to maintain connections, and clearly communicating productivity expectations and schedules (5).
Whether you want to reduce your drinking, eliminate it altogether, or set a different moderation goal, the important thing is to be proactive about reaching these objectives to achieve a healthier, more balanced life. That’s the key to not only being successful in your efforts, but to also finding healthy ways to make those improvements. Take an assessment at CheckUp & Choices to see if you have developed bad habits and might need to make some changes to the amount of drinking or drug use you’ve been doing since working from home. If you decide to make changes, our self-guided, online program can help.
- Pollard et al., JAMA Network Open, 2021
- Madras et al., The American Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, 2020
- Wang et al., International Journal of Drug Policy, 2022
- Vadeboncoeur et al., PLOS ONE, 2022
- DiRenzo et al., Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, 2021