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  • Writer's pictureLauren Booker

How Alcohol Wise Is Your Workplace?

Eight great ways that you can reduce the impact alcohol on your workforce – and your profit margin.

1. Implement effective workplace policies

A strong, practical workplace policy can reduce alcohol problems and reduce legal liability. Policies must be non-punitive and encourage employees to seek treatment. Some occupations, such as construction and transportation are especially vulnerable to hazardous alcohol use. Company policy and culture need to be in step with occupational considerations.

Where mandatory testing is in place, the reasons for this and its aims should be clearly stated.

2. Offer comprehensive health insurance

If you already provide health insurance, check your policy – there are significant gaps in alcohol coverage in many health plans. Policies are available that cover private drug and alcohol treatment if it’s needed. It sends out a clear message of support to employees to know that they can get professional help if they get into difficulties controlling their drinking.

3. Introduce health education and awareness

Health and wellbeing programmes that address the risks of excessive alcohol use are vital. They reduce stigma, encourage employees into treatment and can minimise the impact of alcohol on your workforce. Several studies have found that effective education leads to lower alcohol consumption and lower incidences of negative work performance related to alcohol use.

Consider driver awareness training if you have company vehicles or your workforce need to use their own transport on company business. This may reduce the cost of uninsured losses and, help to protect the organisation’s reputation and prevent employees from losing their licence from ‘morning after’ driving – it might also save a life.

4. Promote confidential screening

When screened for alcohol problems, one in five men and one in ten women who visit their primary care providers meet the criteria for at-risk drinking, problem drinking or alcohol dependence. In the last few years employers have begun to introduce confidential programmes in which employees can self-assess their drinking.

Confidential screening often opens the door for intervention and treatment and demonstrates that the employer is committed to the wellbeing of the workforce.

5. Offer/expand employee assistance programmes (EAP)

Elements of an effective EAP include confidential advice for drinkers or employees affected by a loved one’s drinking, alcohol awareness raising activities, specialist counselling or other alcohol treatment and recovery support for workers in treatment.

Your occupational health provider should be able to direct you to suitable professional help.

6. Manager training to identify and respond to a problem

Ensure that anyone in a supervisory role has the skills and, just as importantly, the confidence to identify and tackle problem drinking. Return to work interviews, appraisals, performance reviews and wellbeing events all offer an opportunity to assess whether drinking is impacting on wellbeing, recovery, and productivity. When managers feel confident to tackle the issue at an early stage, there’s more likelihood of helping an employee before the problem starts to affect their health, wellbeing and employment

7. Dry January

The annual Dry January campaign is a chance for everyone to reset their relationship with alcohol and the benefits of taking just one month off booze are phenomenal. You can organise your own workplace campaign and encourage staff to participate. The Dry January website has a wealth of resources and ideas for great activities and promotions that take the pressure off drinking. A well thought out campaign sends out a signal that going alcohol free for a while is an aspirational, enjoyable challenge.

8. Lead from the front

Consider the workplace alcohol culture across your workforce. If you give alcohol as a reward or if drinking is an accepted or even expected part of the working day, think about what you could change. One study found that 15% of those who did not want to drink during work events drank anyway because they felt obligated. Make your alcohol-free offer a real choice, rather than an afterthought. This will make it easier for those who don’t want to drink to enjoy the event without feeling pressured.

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