The Cost of Promoting Problematic Drinking in the Workplace

Do you offer hangover time off? Do you have beer on tap in the break room? If so, you may be unintentionally promoting problematic drinking within your company culture. Offering these types of perks may seem like inexpensive ways to keep your employees happy and connected with eachother, but they can turn into expensive costs to your benefits plan and overall productivity.

The Cost of Alcohol in the Workplace

Drinking too much not only affects the daily functioning of your employees it can also result in long-term health complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control, excessive alcohol use costs U.S. businesses $179 billion a year in productivity in the workplace and $28 billion in healthcare costs. And according to 3M Corporation, employees are six times more likely to have a hangover from occasional drinking than sickness, which can impact their productivity.

There is a group of people who fall under what’s called a “grey area”. They’re the type of employees where they aren’t physically dependent on alcohol, and they don’t think of themselves as having a “problem”. They do, however, use alcohol as a way to cope and prioritize it over things like their health. These are the people that employers can take care of to prevent an alcohol problem before it starts. That starts with company culture and ensuring your workplace is inclusive and not unintentionally creating a toxic drinking culture.

So, what can companies do to change a culture that’s problematic? For starters, companies can stop offering perks that encourage drinking, like free beer or wine at happy hour or uber codes at every event. When drinking is the center of all functions it gives the green light for problematic drinkers to have at it. The culture trickles down to the younger generations and it becomes the norm.

This isn’t about creating a 100% sober workplace but being aware of small actions that can have big consequences. Telling employees, they don’t have to drink but then offering a full unlimited bar that runs all night is promoting a toxic drinking culture. It places the responsibility on the employee to “behave” while encouraging binge drinking at a company level. Offering beer and wine and cut-off service after a few rounds. This practice will not only help you to avoid legal issues but will help to send the message that over consuming on the job. Employees that want to drink off the company dime will end up doing it anyways. The idea is that the culture will start to shift to the new normal over time by shifting company policies around drinking.

By taking these steps, companies can create a healthier workplace culture and reduce the costs associated with excessive drinking. Ensure your company offers resources that employees feel comfortable accessing, for example, coaching, therapy services, and resources other than AA. Contact me today to get a full custom plan.

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