Workplace impairment can come in many forms and cause your staff to be disconnected from completing tasks.

The severity can vary from less severe: a stressful event, such as deciding the flowers for your wedding or more severe: abusing substances when operating equipment.

Examples of workplace impairment:

  • Fatigue or exhaustion
  • Family problems
  • Harassment or conflict
  • Traumatic or stressful events
  • Substance abuse
  • Injuries
  • Weather conditions

Here are some tips to tackle impairment at work:

1. Open communication

Fostering strong relationships with your staff will help with open communication. If you provide constant support and are understanding, you are more likely to get to the root of the impairment.

For example, your staff could be going through a divorce and the stress from this event is causing fatigue and substance abuse.

While work and home should be separate, it can be hard if a severe event or health issue is occurring to keep them apart.

Avoid the punitive route if this is not a common behavior and penalizing staff for informing you that they will not be able to perform safely and meet standards.

2. Respect privacy

If the situation of impairment is occurring in real-time, try to minimize the number of individuals who are by- standing and observing.

Having multiple eyes watch the situation can cause a blockchain effect of gossiping, and potentially impose workplace conflict or harassment.

Try to have sensitive conversations in private settings to respect employee confidentiality. They may feel more comfortable opening up behind closed doors rather than in front of a crowd.

3. Assist and Accommodation

To the best of your ability, your staff will appreciate it if you can be flexible with their impairments and help where possible.

For example, if the fatigue is coming from work stress and work overload consider bringing in more hands to assist with a project or spreading the work to help lower levels of stress.

Remember, to be inclusive in your accommodation tactics. You can’t favor one staff over the other by allowing leave for personal reasons but not to another staff member.

4. Prohibited substances

Impairment is commonly correlated with substances, including, drugs, alcohol, tobacco and more. Be sure to communicate which substances are prohibited at the workplace and consuming it before scheduled working hours.

For example, the American Lung Association believes that all 50 states and the District of Columbia must pass laws prohibiting smoking in all public places and workplaces.

View by the American Lung Association on Helping Employees Stop Smoking.


A final tip is to consider if the impairment is having a risk to the safety of others and the individual. Maintain workplace safety and follow proper protocols to help mitigate any potential damages or legal trouble.

You will not only save lives, but save money from lower healthcare costs and increased productivity.