Blake Lapthorn 2012 survey findings on the impact of social
media, drugs and alcohol on businesses
In May 2012, Blake Lapthorn's Employment team published the
findings of a client survey it conducted into the impact on
businesses of social media, drugs and alcohol used inside and
Social media, drugs and alcohol usage has an effect on the
majority of organisations one way or another. It has been
widely documented that the trend towards monitoring and dealing
with issues arising from that usage has been on the increase for a
number of years. Consequently, the debate around how best to
deal with this in the workplace continues.
As a result of this, Blake Lapthorn conducted a national survey
into the effects these issues have on organisations. The
survey received responses from 274 organisations across 12
different sectors, and looked at these three areas where there are
concerns around whether or not the demarcation between work-life
and private-life has become uncertain. This follows a
previous national survey that the firm conducted in 2004 into
Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace.
- Despite the documented increase in the use of drugs, alcohol
and social media in and outside the workplace, and employer
concerns on these issues, employers are not doing enough to protect
- The majority of employers feel that there is insufficient
publically available information/guidance on how to deal with these
the full survey report.
- Most employers are open to the technology but responses on how
that access is managed illustrate some contradictory
- Over 80% give access for business purposes with 65% allowing
personal use, yet only 22% provide any form of training.
- Only just over a half of the organisations have any form of
policy and there is no consistent standard for its content.
- Most organisations (86%) do not think the use of social media
or networking sites by employees outside work has any adverse
effect on their work, but around a quarter of employers have found
it necessary to take some form of disciplinary action arising from
employees’ use of social media.
- Organisations use social media for business development,
marketing and recruitment with around a quarter also using it to
vet prospective employees.
So why do employers not only permit but actively facilitate the
use of personal social networking by their employees? It is
not to encourage recruitment or retention as over 75% of
respondents did not think that removing access to social media at
work would harm recruitment. Perhaps it is simply accepted
that the boundaries between personal life and work are fading and
organisations are adopting attitudes and practices that reflect how
we live our lives today.
drugs and alcohol
- Employers who conduct drug and alcohol testing is unchanged;
only 8% in both 2004 and 2012. This is contrary to the
general perception that monitoring their use has been on the
increase over the last few years.
- Drug and alcohol awareness training is also around the same and
remains low (9% in 2004 and 13% in 2012) but out of those that do,
there is now a much greater focus on training managers.
- There has been a significant rise in the number of
organisations that have written policies on drug and alcohol
testing from 19% in 2004 to 36% in 2012. However, the most
marked change has been in tolerance levels. Of the
organisations that conduct testing, 28% operated a zero tolerance
policy in 2004 but in 2012 only 4% apply zero tolerance.
- Most organisations think the use of alcohol and drugs by
employees outside work has an adverse effect on their work (alcohol
61% and drugs 54%).
As employers believe that drugs and alcohol have a significant
impact on work why do they not carry out testing? Curiously,
most respondents said it was because they did not think it was an
issue for their organisation.
the thinking behind our survey
In 2004, Blake Lapthorn's Employment team conducted
a national survey into 'Drug and alcohol testing in the workplace'.
At that time, the results indicated that what people did in
their personal life was not seen as a major problem for most
businesses. Perceptions were stereotyped and provided an
employee was not behaving criminally, the demarcation between
work-life and private-life was generally viewed as clear.
Over the past few years, Blake Lapthorn's Employment
team has dealt with an entirely new range of issues that have
directly arisen from the ambiguity of that demarcation between
work-life and private-life. Patterns of alcohol abuse have
changed and weekend bingers are affecting productivity through poor
performance or absenteeism at the beginning of the working
week. Drug use is not necessarily an addiction or criminal
matter, with legal highs increasingly becoming the recreational
drug of choice.
Most significantly of all, social media interactions are no
longer restricted to being just outside working hours but are also
conducted on social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter
throughout the working day – and not necessarily on the employer's
equipment. The very public nature of these communications
also means that social interactions conducted at home and outside
working hours can impact on businesses and therefore the individual
Blake Lapthorn felt that it was time once more to ask about the
specific problems organisations are facing and how they are dealing
with them. The firm's 2012 survey again dealt with alcohol
and drugs, but this time the firm also looked into the usage and
control of social media.
Sarah Peacock, a partner in Blake Lapthorn's
Employment team who
ran this project, said:
"This is a useful piece of research that highlights emerging
lifestyle trends that will help employers to plan policies and deal
with issues in future.
"Although the boundary between work-life and private-life was
beginning to get a bit hazy in 2004, by 2012 it has become
decidedly blurred. Organisations can set their own boundaries
to make clear what is and is not acceptable use of drugs, alcohol
and social media inside and outside the workplace if that affects
their business. This can be done through implementing clear
policies and by training staff, so they are aware and understand
what will and will not be tolerated, and the consequences of not
adhering to such policies. This will ensure that all staff
are treated consistently and will help organisations protect their
View the full survey report.