Within many workplaces, heavy alcohol consumption as a means of celebration and as an aid to relaxation has become somewhat of a cultural norm.
Office parties and the Friday-drinks-trolley are often listed as perks on “why work for us” pages on company websites; however, alcohol is not the best reward for employee wellbeing.
Why you should focus on one area in employee wellness in particular – reducing alcohol consumption
Heavy drinking during the working week contributes to many alcohol-related problems amongst employees including higher chances of accidents, misjudging risky situations and increased long term health risks of stroke, cancers of the throat, mouth and breasts and heart disease among workers. These issues can affect employees which then impacts upon the productivity of businesses. Research has found that up to 17 million working days are lost each year in the UK because of alcohol-related sickness and the cost to employers of sick days due to alcohol is estimated at £1.7bn.
Prioritising reducing alcohol consumption through education and workplace culture shifts can help to reduce sick days, improve employee productivity and build a thriving workforce.
Helping employees find new coping mechanisms
Alcohol is often described as the “UK’s favourite coping mechanism” and many people drink to help manage stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues. Mintel’s Working Life Report found that 30% of employees turn to alcohol to manage stress. However, using alcohol to manage stress – and other issues – may compound the problem.
Researchers have found that alcohol takes a psychological and physiological toll on the body and may actually exacerbate the effects of stress. Drinking alcohol may feel like it provides some relief—positive feelings and relaxation—in the short term, but as stressful events continue long-term, heavy alcohol consumption can lead to a multitude of medical and psychological problems.
And whilst many believe that drinking alcohol can make us happier, a recent study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine has found that although we may feel momentarily more joyful when consuming alcohol we are just as dissatisfied with life after we have finished our drinks. As the immediate feeling of joy – or calm if drink is being used to relax – fades, we often feel worse than before. Overuse of alcohol can also worsen the symptoms of many mental health problems, and can lead to low mood and anxiety.
We need to find coping mechanisms that enhance our life and help relieve our stress long term; rather than using alcohol as a temporary solution. Working through a programme like One Year No Beer is a brilliant way to help your employees change their relationship with alcohol, and work towards greater overall health.
One Year No Beer has been designed to help people put alcohol in its place; helping them to feel better than ever and to discover their hidden potential. The online offering consists of 3 core programmes; the 28, 90 and 365-Day Alcohol-Free Challenges. These challenges have been designed to help people transform their relationship with alcohol through mindset shifts and are the ideal companion to educate employees that they do not need alcohol to function, to relax or to have a good time.
Reducing alcohol intake and increasing productivity
40% of employers mention alcohol as a significant cause of low productivity. From days off due to hangovers, to presenteeism by employees operating on little sleep, alcohol can seriously impact a businesses overall output.
Whilst alcohol is often thought to improve sleep, a new review of 27 studies found that this is incorrect. Alcohol can trick people into thinking they are getting a good night's sleep, by helping them to drift off faster but in fact when you drink, research has found you miss much of the important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. REM sleep is thought to benefit learning, memory, and mood and a lack of REM sleep may have adverse implications for physical and emotional health. While you are supposed to have between six and seven cycles of REM sleep a night, typically a person only has one to two cycles when they have been drinking.
Better sleep comes with many benefits; we are more productive, can learn and problem solve better. Our ability to control emotions and behaviour has also been shown to improve with better sleep.
Cutting down on alcohol can bring great rewards for your employees and, in turn, your business. Limiting the amount we drink has not only been shown to equal better sleep, but more energy and improved mental and physical health.
Workplace drinking culture – change is needed
Workplace drinking culture has begun to slowly change with some companies making steps to reduce alcohol consumption amongst their staff. At the start of the year, Lloyd’s of London called time on drink and drugs amongst employees and their plans include turning the on-site bar into a coffee shop. However, more than two-fifths (43%) of young workers still worry that not drinking alcohol is a barrier to fitting in socially at work.
Companies can improve employee wellbeing by cultivating a culture that removes the pressure to drink alcohol in order to fit in. This can be achieved by curating positive social experiences that do not centre around alcohol, offering alcohol-free drinks at work functions and educating employees as to the myriad of benefits that can come from reducing their alcohol consumption long term through an online programme such as the Alcohol-Free Challenges by One Year No Beer.
Focusing on reducing alcohol consumption amongst your employees can reduce hangover-induced employee absence, improve employees work output and productivity, and increase their overall quality of life.