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Shifting your Company’s Drinking Culture

Mindful drinking

Alcohol is a difficult subject in the workplace. At work hospitality, staff parties and Friday drinks it is expected that alcohol is available. It is legal, widely used, and a dominant theme of the British social life. Yet we all know it impacts on mental health, weight and interpersonal behaviour. Conservative estimates suggest that alcohol costs the economy £7.3 billion per year in lost productivity alone.

Because alcohol is a ‘cultural norm’ and problems with alcohol still come with a stigma, we know that employers don’t want to be seen as nannying. Staff will never tick ‘alcohol’ as their main health concern in welfare surveys. Yet, when it comes to improving resilience, managing stress, losing weight or improving sleep, alcohol use has an important role to play. So how can deal with this delicate conundrum? Another more topical issue is also the fact that alcohol influences behaviour in ways that could be described as bullying or even harassment. For HR and wellness managers it is a tough topic to navigate!

What we do know is that on average 1 in 5 of your employees already want to change their drinking habits (a majority of those will be looking to moderate). Recognising that staff will have this as a secret goal and not talk about it is a good start. You can make some simple changes to ‘de-hangover’ your company which are good for everyone. All your actions will contribute to improving other areas of your workforce’s wellness. It just takes a simple switch in thinking.

Here are our top tips:

1. Think of this as a diversity issue as well as a health one. Younger people are drinking less and are beginning the fear entering a boozy work culture. Consider how an alcohol-led work social life impacts on your existing staff (whether they don’t drink for personal, religious or even parenting reasons) and could influence recruitment. Stating publicly that you are a good workplace for mindful drinkers will put everyone at ease, and making it clear that your staff always have permission to say ‘no’ to a drink.

2. You can make some simple changes to what your company does as part of an equality and inclusion policy. Easy wins include ensuring there is a good range of alcohol-free drinks at all events; making sure that badgering people to drink during or after work is recognised as bullying; having a clear ‘it’s okay not to drink with clients’ policy (your clients will thank you too); and organising social events that are not always alcohol-led.

3. Many of Club Soda’s members have told us that work events, such as networking or drinks, are often the things that knock them off their intended goals. Why not run a pop-up bar during a wellness week and get staff to pick what alcohol-free beers and wines and craft sodas they want to see added to socials, team celebrations and the drinks fridge? Pick pubs for socials with a diverse range of drinks (or ask for the bar to stock them for your event). Ensuring that you are always giving people permission to not drink is really easy to do.

4. Water is for everyone, it is not an alcohol-free option; and ditch the orange juice! Unless you are organising a breakfast or it is 1980 again. When not drinking alcohol, people often prefer healthier choices – so go for lower calorie and lower sugar options, such as alcohol-free beers or craft sodas. Your clients will appreciate the extra thought too. See hospitality as the quality of the welcome you offer, rather than the price of the booze you serve.

5. Talk to your catering contractors. At the moment the finger-pointing for a poor choice of alcohol-free drinks is levelled at caterers by the companies, and vice versa. Someone has to step up and change the status quo. And since you pay the bills, you get to decide what is served at your events. Be bold!

6. Integrate information about alcohol into your other health programmes. Alcohol affects every bit of your body. So rather than sticking it as a separate subject, weave information into any programmes about stress, mental health, weight and sleep.

7. Support your staff who are looking to reassess their relationship with alcohol by finding courses and workshops they can attend without ‘outing’ themselves. Club Soda’s online programmes and workshops are designed to do just that.

At PUSH, we love working with Club Soda, the UK’s Mindful Drinking Movement. They work with companies to review their culture to make sure staff have permission to not drink, run workshops, inspirational talks and panels, run pop-up bars and mini Mindful Drinking Festivals to round-off wellness weeks and have a venue guide of good places for mindful drinkers. If you would like to work with Club Soda, get in touch today!