Enhancing alcohol and other drug workers’ wellbeing: A literature review

June 2017
Nicholas, R., Duraisingam, V., Roche, A., Hodge, S., & Braye, K. (2017). Enhancing alcohol and other drug workers’ wellbeing: A literature review. National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction (NCETA). Flinders University, Adelaide, SA.

NCETA in collaboration with the Network of Alcohol and other Drugs Agencies (NSW, Australia) and Matua Raki (New Zealand), conducted a literature review examining the health and wellbeing of the AOD workforces in Australasia. The review describes, summarises and evaluates the literature in relation to:

  • Areas of concern for the workforce (describing the problem)
  • Protective factors (including what promotes health and wellbeing)
  • Measures and tools used to examine workforce health and wellbeing
  • Effective interventions for a healthy workforce.

This report describes the key findings from the literature review and outlines the contextual issues related to the wellbeing of AOD workers. It also provides an overview of the wellbeing status of Australian, New Zealand and other international AOD workforces. Importantly, it concludes that the wellbeing of AOD workers has not been extensively researched and that the focus has been largely on psychological wellbeing rather than a more holistic approach to wellbeing. The available research from Australia and New Zealand suggests that, in comparison to workers in similar roles, most AOD workers are functioning well psychologically.

The report notes that worker wellbeing is a key issue facing many organisations in Australia and New Zealand. It not only affects client outcomes but also has major economic impacts. Poor worker wellbeing results in substantial human and financial costs on individuals, organisations and health care systems. Employers bear many of these costs and there is increasing recognition that a healthy workforce is essential to achieving an organisation’s goals.

Contemporary approaches to improving worker wellbeing include:

  • Enhancing the physical safety of workers
  • Enhancing the physical welfare of workers
  • Reducing the impact of psychological risks
  • Worker-focussed health promotion
  • Systemic approaches to enhancing worker wellbeing.

The report identifies that programs designed to enhance AOD worker wellbeing can be implemented at the individual and/or organisational levels. Examples of effective approaches to enhance AOD worker wellbeing include:

  • Worker wellbeing policies
  • Multifaceted health promotion programs
  • Programs to enhance worker resilience
  • Effective clinical supervision
  • Ensuring that organisations are well managed
  • Encouraging help-seeking behaviours in the workplace
  • Programs to prevent and reduce stress and burnout
  • Encouraging individual self-care approaches.

The findings from the literature review are being used to inform the next stage of this project, an online survey of AOD workers in New South Wales and New Zealand (see New Project: Examining the health and wellbeing of the AOD workforce: Online Survey for more information).