Workplaces do not just suffer from the effects of alcohol – they can exacerbate the problem. According to recent statistics, one in five UK employees will attend after-work drinks with colleagues at least once a month, especially on a Friday night. Eleven percent of them would stay at the bar until the end of the night if it meant spending one-on-one time with their boss, and two thirds will head out for drinks with colleagues as a coping mechanism after a particularly stressful day. But while socialising with co-workers can help forge stronger relationships in the office, as soon as we start equating out-of-hours networking with getting ahead, problems can arise.
There are other important risk factors that have been identified as increasing the likelihood of alcohol-related harm:
- Shift work
- Poor working conditions (hazardous, hot, cramped, at height, underground)
- Personal conflict and stress
- Low job security or lack of control
- Changes or upheaval at work
On average, consumption tends to be higher among people in managerial and professional roles compared to lower paid occupations.
How can I reduce drinking culture in my organisation?
There’s no-one-size-fits-all approach but putting in place a few key measures can make a dramatic difference to your workplace’s productivity, safety, and your employees’ wellbeing. A good place to start is to develop a Drug and Alcohol Policy.
Here are 5 additional ways to limit drinking amongst staff:
1. Establish healthy norms
It is important to communicate approval for maintaining healthy drinking levels or advocating for the freedom to stay alcohol-free. The most basic step towards this is have rules in place about alcohol consumption during work time. The Friday night pub trip could be replaced with a de-stressing yoga class, the beer fridge could offer non-alcoholic beer and employees could be offered information about the impact of alcohol on physical and mental health. It is also important for those in leadership roles to lead by example.
2. Be especially mindful of inadvertently pressuring others, especially newcomers
Inviting a new employee for a drink their first few weeks on the job may seem like a benign, welcoming move, but for those who choose to be alcohol-free it may cause them to feel the ‘beer pressure.’ It can inadvertently influence them to consume alcohol to fit in or avoid offending those they wish to impress or bond with. This could create a lasting and harmful impression that their job performance is tied to their willingness to drink. Put a pause on suggesting they join you at happy hour until they have found their footing.
2. Plan alcohol-free social events
Employees who do not drink should not be made to feel ostracised or uncomfortable attending social or work events. Many people abstaining from alcohol are perfectly happy attending events where alcohol is present, they just choose not to join in on the drinking. To ensure the entire spectrum of your employees have the chance to socialise comfortably, sprinkle in a few social events without alcohol, or ensure there are plenty of alcohol-free alternatives to choose from. The benefit of this is that the bonding and memories formed when alcohol-free usually last a lot longer than the blurred antics of Friday night drinks.
3. Limit alcohol stocks
Trends regarding alcohol availability in the office come and go. If your office is choosing to stock up on alcohol for an event, cap the amount of alcohol purchased per head and have plenty of soft drink options available. It is no different to catering for the vegetarians in the office when ordering food.
4. Empathy and consideration
A little empathy and consideration can make a world of a difference to someone who is trying to go alcohol-free. If you are planning after work drinks, choose a bar where there is an activity to do other than drinking, like table football or pool. If you notice someone abstaining, try not to ask any awkward questions about why they are not drinking or try to pressure them to join in, instead offer words of encouragement and support. In fact, be the one that rescues them if they are being pressurised by others.
5. Challenge yourself
As the alcohol-free movement gains momentum, more people are independently going against societal drinking behaviour. Offering alcohol-free challenges as part of a company’s wellness program can show employees, they have the option and support to transform their relationship with alcohol should they choose to. Whole teams or organisations can complete challenges together as an opportunity for team bonding.
So, the next time Friday night rolls around, and the mention of hitting the pub after work arises – keep these simple changes at the forefront of your mind. They could make all the difference to creating a comfortable working environment and positive workplace experiences.
Racoo Screening works with organisations of all sizes to help implement effective workplace drug and alcohol testing policies that comply with national and, where relevant, international regulations. We also offer a complete drug and alcohol testing service, e-learning packages, and staff training. To find out more, contact us here.