Alcohol Awareness Week: How to support your employees

From 16th – 22nd November, the world will be marking Alcohol Awareness Week via campaigns aiming to increase awareness of the impact of alcohol. It’s time to get thinking abut drinking, and there are plenty of ways for employers to support its team.

The impact of alcohol in the workplace

It’s common sense that employees should never come to work under the influence of alcohol. But drinking too much alcohol the night before can have a huge impact, too. So can that cheeky lunchtime drink. Lack of motivation, decreased productivity, increased absences, safety concerns and looser or negative behaviour are just some of the ways alcohol can impact performance at work.

In fact, alcohol use costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually due to lost productivity. Moderate drinkers are often impacted the most by impaired concentration, yet it’s much tougher to spot that someone is perhaps drinking just a little too much.

Employers should have a drugs and alcohol policy in place. This isn’t designed to catch out employees. It’s there to help support them, identifying a problem in time and improving that worker’s performance. The best way to promote alcohol awareness in the workplace is to ensure your policies are clearly displayed and distributed, educate staff on the impact of alcohol and develop a company culture that supports employees rather than tries to ignore an issue or punish someone who’s struggling.

Your senior leaders or managers aren’t health professionals, and shouldn’t provide advice on the best way to control drinking. Instead, signpost employees in need of help to their GP or other local organisations who may be able to help.

There’s no easy way to sober up

Drinking coffee, cracking open a window or eating a fry up won’t help you sober up any quicker. It takes our livers an hour to break down and remove one unit of alcohol. Only time can help you to remove alcohol from the bloodstream.

If an employee does come into work having clearly drunk too much, you should give them the chance to sober up before having detailed discussions about a support plan.  

Alcohol and mental health

Drinking too much, or drinking often throughout the week, can increase our risk of developing a mental health problem. Yet, when we feel stressed or anxious, chances are we’ll turn to alcohol to help give us a boost. According to YouGov, 27% of people say workplace stress drives them to drink more.

Employers should be aware of the impact work can have on mental health. By promoting a great company culture, with a welcoming and open attitude to mental health, employees will feel able to share their concerns with their manager.

Promote Alcohol Awareness Week at your workplace

One of the best ways to prevent your employees from overindulging in alcohol is to ensure you showcase the effects of alcohol. Awareness-raising activities can be varied. Posters around the office, wellbeing webinars and management training can help to ensure your workplace is supportive and informative.

There are plenty of downloadable resources available. Promote the importance of alcohol awareness and the impact of alcohol on mental health and notice the difference it makes to your team.

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