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Why are more boardroom executives checking into rehab?

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An increase in burnout and addiction have seen more boardroom executives checking into rehab in recent years, according to the UK’s only purpose-built clinic.

Bosses at Delamere in Cheshire have said the combination of pressure, stress, high salaries, long hours and the human need to let off steam are “a cocktail that produces an all too predictable outcome” and has led to a rise in referrals coming to them from employers who are happy to pay for boardroom executives to undergo the facility’s 28-day residential rehab programme.

Alex Atwell, Delamere’s head of people, believes the stress combined with a drinking culture in certain industries can fuel addiction.

She said: “When you’re in a senior role in a large organisation the potential to turn to alcohol as a coping mechanism can be massive because if you make a wrong decision it can have far-reaching consequences.

“It’s also much more socially acceptable in large organisations to drink with key stakeholders and other businesses on a regular basis.

“These can be business lunches or a trip to the races and you can turn into an outcast if you turn down a drink.”

Mrs Atwell, an HR professional with 30 years of experience at Morrisons, still believes addiction is more spoken about on the shopfloor than in the boardroom.

She added: “It’s an illness that needs support, but naturally there’s a stigma associated with it.

“There’s often an element of denial in people who are suffering from addiction. 

“So it’s important that senior managers and leaders are educated to spot the signs of addiction and also create an environment where people feel able to open up without fear of judgement and repercussions.

“It’s about educating organisations and training managers to raise awareness of what addiction is and isn’t, as there is often a misconception.

“It’s also really important to understand what the impact can be, both personally and professionally, and the available options.

“Being able to spot the signs and take appropriate action to support the colleague is key.”

According to Delamere, many UK companies do not have policies in place to deal with alcohol and drug misuse despite the fact the National Treatment Agency has said that illegal drug use costs the industry about £800m a year while alcohol misuse costs up to £6.4bn.

Mrs Atwell said: “Many employers don’t see it is their responsibility where addiction is concerned. 

“I think all companies have a duty of care to provide a safe work environment and acknowledge the welfare and challenges some of our colleagues face to enable colleagues to perform at their best.

“I feel it’s a bit of an easy option for large organisations to part company with members of staff who are suffering from addiction as opposed to educating and upskilling themselves to further understand and support employees.

“Some organisations underestimate the financial challenges of sacking an employee.

“There are often unquantifiable costs to recruiting the best replacement with the correct skill-set and onboarding them.

“I think often it can be more expensive to do that instead of supporting someone through a facility like Delamere.

“It’s also far more rewarding and amazing to see the progress they make at Delamere – from day one to day 28 when they head home to return to the workspace.”

Founder and CEO of Delamere, Martin Preston, added that by supporting a boardroom exec into recovery, employers send out the clear message that they care for their people.

He said: “Particularly since the Covid lockdown, we have seen an increase in C-suite executives checking into rehab across the industry. 

“Executives who were high-functioning and able to drink excessive amounts of alcohol without too much impact on their lives, lost control when they had no employment to attend to every day, which would otherwise act as a boundary around their drinking.

“It’s a demographic in the office that is not often thought about when you think of addiction. As companies rightly continue to place a greater emphasis on improving workforce well-being, we need to continue to remember this extends to the boardroom as well.

“Delamere has always appealed to entrepreneurial, successful business people with our person-centred, holistic approach to recovery. 

“Now with the launch of our ‘Bloom’ aftercare programme, we are well-placed to help C-suite executives get back into the boardroom with clear coping mechanisms and survival strategies to avoid relapsing.”

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