Does Your Workplace Have a Drinking Culture?

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Staff functions, celebrations or after work drinks in the workplace can be a great way to relax, enjoy each other’s company and celebrate a job well done. Yet, if company’s social events are centered around alcohol, you may be creating a culture of drinking within your organization. Now is a great opportunity for employers to review their company’s alcohol policy and evaluate if your company culture can be detrimental to your employees’ health, safety and productivity.

Many companies are jumping on the trend of mixing business and pleasure, stocking fridges and kegerators with alcohol for employees to enjoy on or off the clock. A majority of companies also offer alcoholic beverages at special company gatherings and holiday parties. While many employers view alcohol as a way of thanking their employees for their hard work and long hours, they are accepting some liability for any accidents that may happen at work or on their commute back home. Allowing alcohol in the workplace an also create an unhealthy environment for those who struggle with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Cool trend or risky policy?

According to the 2009 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, most binge drinkers and heavy alcohol users are employed. Among the 57.4 million adult binge drinkers, 42.7 million (74%) were employed either full or part time. Similarly, among the 16.6 million heavy drinkers, 12.4 million (75%) were employed. This means that there is a strong chance that some of your employees could be struggling with alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Alcohol can also cause tension within your organization. Those who abstain from drinking for personal or religious reasons may feel isolated or experience peer pressure to drink. Those who do drink are less productive due to short-term absenteeism and lower quality and quantity of work.

How to address your company culture of drinking within your company’s alcohol policy

If you do offer alcoholic beverages in your workplace, consider setting some guidelines in your company’s alcohol policy that addresses possible situations that might arise. For example, place a limit on how many drinks employees can be served at functions and monitor consumption with drink tickets. To reduce any kind of legal liabilities if an inebriated employee is involved in a car accident, it may also be helpful to always have a taxi or car service on-hand when you know alcohol will be served.

Another issue involving alcohol in your company culture is your policy of entertaining clients. If your employees treat clients to lunch or dinner, address how many drinks they are allowed to have, if any at all. Restricting alcohol intake in these situations can help maintain your company’s good reputation, and reduce the possibility of your employees returning to the workplace under the influence.

Consider establishing a program that addresses alcohol problems in the workplace. Create opportunities for employees to become aware and educated on the dangers of over-consumption and promote healthy behaviors and other stress management techniques. Also, be sure your employees are informed on their Employee Assistance Program, and how the EAP benefit can help support the mental health of those who may be suffering from alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Contact EFR today for more tips on how to enforce an alcohol policy within your organization, and to learn more about implementing an EAP within your organization!

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