Alcohol is used by many people as a way to wind down after work. However, when brought into the workplace, problems begin to arise. The consumption of alcohol within the workplace is a troublesome symptom of a drinking habit. The drinking habits of employees can actually have a big impact on a company of any size.
Surprisingly, most alcohol-related incidents in the workplace are caused by those who drink moderately over heavily. As little as one drink can have a negative impact on both concentration and reaction rates, leading to productivity levels of any worker consuming alcohol being hindered.
How Alcohol Consumption Can Impact the Workplace
There are two main ways that alcohol consumption can impact the workplace: an individual being either hungover or still under the influence of alcohol from the night before or, alcohol being consumed either before or during work. Lost productivity caused by alcohol consumption costs the UK economy over £7billion each year. In addition to this financial strain, this alcohol in the workplace can put not only the employee in question at risk, but also everyone around them. If an employee is under the influence of alcohol in work, they are much more likely to sustain an injury.
In addition to the negative impact on productivity, other specific issues may arise such as: sleeping on the job, lateness and absences, poor decision making and confrontational behaviour. Issues arise mostly when the consumption of alcohol leads to individuals becoming dependent.
Government research conducted into the drinking habits of adults in the UK found that 57.8% of people consume alcohol weekly. It was found that those working in managerial and professional occupations were the most likely to drink regularly. The effects of the overconsumption of alcohol are easily felt in the workplace; this also means that the workplace can be a good place to identify alcohol problems.
Alcohol abuse may not always be something that is easy to recognise as warning signs may vary between individuals. For instance, some people are very secretive about their drinking habits, and may only drink privately. Things that employers can look out for in identifying potential drinking include lack of coordination, bloodshot and/or glossy eyes, slurred speech and slow pupil responses. You can also look out for things such as if an individual sometimes has difficulty completing some assignments, or if they are often hungover. For example, they might often appear pale and be nauseous.
Warning signs mentioned above shouldn’t be brushed under the carpet or taken lightly. Other colleagues that work closely with the individual may also notice things as they are likely to spend more time with them. There is also the possibility that an individual of whom is drinking heavily, might not realise that they have a problem until it is pointed out to them. For this reason, and for everyone’s safety including their own, it is important that alcohol abuse in the workplace is handled immediately.
A study suggests 27% of people state that they actually consume alcohol as a result of workplace stress. Therefore, it is important to consider what can be done to create a more stress-free environment for employees.
Those who work in industries such as construction, hospitality, entertainment and utilities are more likely to drink heavily. If you are an employer in these industries it is particularly important that you are looking out for warning signs and have a proper workplace drug and alcohol policy in place.
Moreover, it is important to note that some industries may actively encourage a drinking culture. This may be through informal drinking and socialising after work and workplace events where drinking may be encouraged, and alcohol may even be available for free. Things such as these can lead to drinking becoming the norm for some, thus leading to dependency.
There are also risk factors which have been identified within the workplace as increasing the likelihood of alcohol abuse occurring amongst employees. Some of these factors include shift work, poor working conditions, personal conflicts, low job security, changes or upheaval in the workplace and a drinking culture.
In order to reduce the risk of employees abusing alcohol there are a number of things you could do. Firstly, you can run alcohol and drug awareness activities and ensure that employees know where they can find help if they need it. It is also a good idea to try and ensure that social events are not geared entirely around drinking, team-building events can be used instead with good non-alcoholic drink options available. Workplace drug and alcohol testing can also be a clear way of ensuring that employees aren’t abusing alcohol whilst in work.
How a Workplace Drug and Alcohol Policy Can Help
It is important to ensure that you have a proper workplace drug and alcohol policy in place, so that if any issues do arise you have a clear procedure to follow. Most employers will feel a duty of care towards their staff, so termination might not always be the clear resolution to the problem. Addiction can not only affect an individual physically, but mentally too. Mental health of employees is a very important issue to pay attention to in the workplace. Having an employee assistance programme available so that employees can access support that they may need is a good way to help your employees.
An easy way to help manage this is through using HR support consultants who can ensure that risks that may lead to alcohol abuse are managed, workplace drug and alcohol policies are in place and that the correct support is available if it is ever needed.