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  • Writer's pictureLauren Booker

Its all about change

This year's Alcohol Awareness Week is all about change

Change is necessary

Currently less than fifteen percent of dependent drinkers[1] are engaged with treatment services. Often, it’s stigma around drink problems and a culture that normalizes drunkenness that makes it hard to come forward and seek help. Not to mention the fear of losing your job. Those who are finding it difficult to control their drinking don’t come forward until the problem is almost intractable and harm is evident.

As with the great strides that have been made in opening up a conversation about mental health in the workplace, I’d like to see more people discussing the impact of excessive drinking. I’d also like to make it much easier to approach your employer to say that you could do with some support to change your drinking, rather than waiting until the problem ends up as a disciplinary issue.

Change is possible

Alcohol Awareness Week, Dry January and other campaigns are an opportunity for organisations to review and reflect on their alcohol policies and practices. Estimates suggest that only around 60% of businesses have an alcohol policy in place so now is a good time to think about your alcohol message and its relevance to your workforce. Whether updating your current policy or developing a new one it’s important to consult with staff. Gaining an understanding of what the issues might be in your workplace, and what your staff think about these, is a good basis for developing an effective and dynamic document. It also ensures that everyone is aware of your ethos when it comes to drinking and work.

Both ACAS[2] and the British Medical Association[3] have provided guidance on how companies can reduce the risks associated with excessive consumption to their workforce. Risks include absenteeism, presenteeism, reduced productivity and damage to reputation. Employers are starting to recognize the value of a wellbeing offer to employees – a healthy workforce is a happy and productive workforce – so there’s a sound argument for investing in measures to reduce alcohol-related harm.

Change is happening

Many organisations now offer health screening, encourage staff to exercise or give up smoking or provide healthier food options for meetings but what about the booze? There’s still a reluctance to mention alcohol but according to Public Health England, alcohol is now the number one risk factor for ill-health, premature death and disability in England[4]. And this is something we can change.

The growth of behavior change campaigns such as Dry January and the proliferation of alcohol free alternatives in supermarkets and pubs (check out the reviews of alcohol free beers, wines and spirits on the Drinkwise Wales website) indicate that change is already underway. The more we talk about it, the easier it is to talk.

If you’d like to join in the conversation in your workplace, I’m happy to offer guidance and assistance to get you up and running. You can also check out the resources for Dry January and Alcohol Awareness Week on the Alcohol Change website.

[1] Alcohol Policy UK, Statistics for alcohol treatment in England: falling numbers, 2017, accessed at: on 8.10.18

[2] ACAS, Health, Work and Wellbeing, 2012

[3] BMA, Alcohol, drugs and the workplace - the role of medical professionals, 2016

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