How Gambling Affects the Workplace

Although gambling is a harmless activity for most people, it has the potential to become highly addictive and the uncontrollable urge to gamble can infiltrate working hours. Gambling disorder is characterized by continuing to gamble despite it causing significant problems, repeated unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop and increased priority given to gambling over other responsibilities, including work.

This blog looks at the impact of gambling in the workplace – how gambling affects productivity and what companies can do to protect employees from gambling-related harm.

Gambling at work statistics

Reed in Partnership published a ‘Gambling and Employment’ report in 2016, based on a YouGov survey and interviews with UK Employment Advisers, into the consequences of gambling on work. It found that:

  • More than four in five British adults think that gambling and debt can be a distraction for people at work.
  • 10% of working adults have direct experience of the problems gambling can cause in the workplace.
  • 28% of working adults who gamble would prefer to keep their gambling activities hidden from co-workers. This rises to 34% of people who work in finance, accountancy or legal services.
  • 72% of respondents think that organizations should be concerned about gambling, with the biggest concern expressed by those who work in financial services.
  • People who work in retail are most likely to have gambled in the past 12 months (56%) and those who work in education least likely to have gambled (39%).
  • People with management responsibility are more likely to have gambled in the past 12 months than those without this responsibility (45% versus 39%).
  • More than one in 20 men sometimes think about gambling while at work, compared to one in 100 women.

The impact of COVID-19 on gambling in the workplace

During the COVID-19 pandemic, millions of workers across the globe have switched to remote working to help curb the spread of the virus. The social isolation associated with the pandemic and the increased availability and accessibility of online gambling have created a perfect storm. Bored and stressed employees have turned to gambling as a form of entertainment and escape – emotional escapism is a well-documented symptom of problem gambling. The blurred lines between home and work are providing more temptations to gamble during working hours, especially for employees with existing gambling issues, which is making businesses vulnerable to the negative impacts of gambling.

The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has highlighted this issue: “For some people managing gambling addiction, working from home potentially removes some of the safety nets that may help them in managing their gambling consumption. These include supervision and support from managers and other colleagues, online blocking software and the demand of work activities. Working from home may also induce increased usage of gambling apps or websites, in part because boredom stimulates gambling, but also because social distancing and isolating at home will lead to increases in exposure to advertisements via television, online and social media.”

The COVID-19 pandemic is also causing job insecurity and financial pressures among employees. Some people are turning to gambling as a way of managing debt and uncertainty. Speculative stock trading – a type of gambling-like behavior – has attracted an influx of investors and a surge in trading activity during the COVID-19 pandemic with millions of new accounts set up. Find out more about the signs of day trading addiction.

How gambling can negatively affect your organization

Employees with problematic gambling habits can cause problems at work in several ways:

  • Reduced productivity – Employees who gamble at work are likely to be easily distracted from their responsibilities and unable to work efficiently and effectively.
  • Low morale – If a staff member’s gambling habits are making them less productive and it’s creating extra work for their co-workers, this can lead to resentment and low morale within the team.
  • Increased absence – People addicted to gambling are likely to take extended breaks during the working day, or even full days of absence, to focus on their gambling activities.
  • Risk of theft and fraud – Gambling disorder can have a devastating effect on a sufferer’s financial situation. As they spiral further into debt, an employee with access to company funds, may steal or fraudulently obtain company assets to support their gambling addiction.

How to protect employees from gambling

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Employers have a legal duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of employees. Understanding the signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling will help your organization to manage health and safety risk in your workplace and develop a company gambling policy. Here are three ways to support and protect your staff.

  1. Identify the risks – Assess how employees can use computers, phones and other digital devices for gambling at work.
  2. Take a proactive approach – Distribute responsible gambling information to all staff and provide access to help and support through an Employee Assistance Program.
  3. Introduce a company gambling policy to protect your employees and the organization. It could:
    • Acknowledge that gambling in the workplace can interfere with productivity and staff morale.
    • Specify the types of gambling activity that are banned and any that are allowed to take place.
    • Restrict computer use to business work only and block employees from accessing betting sites.
    • Outline the company’s disciplinary procedure for employees caught gambling at work.
    • Explain your business reasons for banning gambling to protect the organization against any legal action.

Setting up an Employee Assistance Program (EAP)

An Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is a professional support service that many businesses offer to improve morale, boost productivity and reduce absence.

At Kindbridge, we can tailor our EAP with flexible options to meet the needs of your organization. We will provide a fast initial consultation and expert support for your employees, with confidential, online therapy available from anywhere in the US.

Your staff will have access to four counseling sessions for common mental health problems such as stressanxiety and depression – as well as more specialist therapy, including gambling disorder. Follow-up support can be provided afterwards, if required, and we also offer therapy for eligible family members who have been affected by a loved one’s condition.

Get in touch to find out more about our Employee Assistance Program (EAP) for your organization.