Talking about alcohol responsibly… it’s not easy!

Alcohol Awareness Week on November 14th is a perfect opportunity for employers to raise the subject of drinking and challenge some of the preconceived thinking we all have.

Many employees will drink and some will drink more than they realise, in fact according to Public Health England, 25% will drink more than the recommended guidelines. Employees who drink above lower risk guidelines are at higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease and cancer. This affects both their health as well as their ability to work well.

Managers have an important role to play here, both in terms of role modelling responsible behaviour at office parties, as well as being able to moderate the usual discussions that happen when people generally talk about alcohol – namely to reflect on some of the pros and cons of drinking too much.

This is important as it’s in everyone’s interest to create a healthier and more effective workforce.


Talking about alcohol responsibly

As well as modelling responsible behaviour, managers can set the right tone when discussing alcohol at work. Without being too pious or preachy, its okay to be reflective on the downsides of drinking too much:

  • Absenteeism
  • Concentration and confusion problems
  • Lowered job efficiency
  • Attending for work smelling of alcohol
  • Breaking the company rules on drinking

Good practice Managers can decide to nip certain conversations in the bud – by gently reminding employees of the rules around alcohol. Setting the tone is important and sometimes managers need to steer the conversation to the adverse affects of alcohol, as well as the positive. Managers should also monitor their own drinking levels if drinking with colleagues and stick to the recommended limits – a maximum of 14 units per week, spread over 3 days or more.


Alcohol Awareness Week – be proactive

Taking advantage of Alcohol Awareness Week, managers may decide to suggest an alcohol free team outing or bonding activity – see how much fun you can have without alcohol – make a point of saying ‘it’s for Alcohol Awareness Week’. You could decide to raise money for charity by not drinking for a week or choosing an alcohol free activity for the evening - ask employees to vote on what to do.

This time of year is also often when the end of year office party is planned – managers need to be mindful of how to ensure a safe night out for everyone.

Of course, where managers have noticed signs of alcohol use at work such as smelling of alcohol or slurred speech they should act immediately and should consider sending the employee home if they believe the individual to be intoxicated, especially in roles where there is a high risk of injury or harm.

If you would like more advice about raising alcohol awareness at work or about manager training or reviewing your alcohol at work policy, please contact us.

Get the freshest workplace wellbeing news and research delivered to your inbox every month here

Posted by Don Shenker on 6th October 2016