This week is Alcohol Awareness Week, and it provides us all a chance to stop, reflect and make changes with our understanding and consciousness of our drinking habits.

Now more than ever, we may be taking to enjoying a glass of wine, or more at home. With the closure of pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants yet again upon us in another national lockdown, sales of alcohol are set to spike once again. AlcoholChange.Org conducted a short survey during the first lockdown which had some incredibly interesting results:

  • 28% of people had drunk more alcohol during lockdown, with those that are working more likely to drink than those that are not. 
  • Perhaps more concerning, heavier drinkers were found to also be drinking more too.
  • One in five of the people surveyed have drunk alcohol as a way to handle stress and anxiety, with parents more likely doing so than non-parents.
  • One in five expected to head straight to the pub within 2 weeks of lockdown easing

For the full report and information on the findings, click here

The theme for this year’s Alcohol Awareness Week is “Alcohol and Mental Health”. With a focus on the link between alcohol and mental health, it’s a time to look after ourselves, and those around us during a year of great change and uncertainty. And, with one in four people in the UK experiencing a mental health problem each year, and drinking too much or too often increasing our risk, there’s never been a better time to apply this focus.

So many of us are applying a flexible working pattern these days with the encouragement from the government to work from home. Being at home more, the lines between professional and personal time can become blurred, which makes it tricky to focus and the temptation to grab a glass of wine here and there so much easier. But, how and when do you know if your alcohol consumption is cause for concern or action?

You are safest not to drink more than 14 units per week, spreading those units over the week, not binging and having ‘alcohol free’ days too. If you don’t stick to this as a maximum, and find yourself drinking so much more, it can have a huge affect on your personal and professional life. It increases the possibility of injuries and accidents at work plus a reduction in concentration and coordination in performance. Your productivity will also be reduced meaning goals and objectives fail to be met which can lead to great issues and concern for an employer. But, surprisingly, many issues within the workplace are not caused by heavy drinkers, but more moderate drinkers. 

Lost productivity due to alcohol consumption costs the UK economy more than £7 billion annually with 40% of employers seeing alcohol consumption as a significant cause of low productivity. But, not only that, workplaces can not only feel the effects of alcohol, but they can exacerbate them with 27% of people saying that workplace stress makes them drink more. Those that do shift work, have poor working conditions, have a lack of control, or a drinking culture being seen as normal at work all further these risks.

So, let’s talk about action! What can YOU do to take control and make positive steps this Alcohol Awareness Week?

For You:

  • Drink no more than 14 units a week, spread over a few days with a few ‘alcohol free’ days
  • Consider going ‘dry’ for a number of weeks or months and begin to see instant improvements in your alertness, finances, energy and wellbeing
  • Avoid drinking at all, or drinking too many units the night before work to help reduce the risk of low-productivity and energy during your working day

For your Employees:

You may notice in your employees a few signs that they’re struggling with a large alcohol consumption as their productivity and attention to detail will reduce. Maybe they’ll have bloodshot eyes or be on the edge of falling asleep at work. They may forget or miss meetings and deadlines, and they may become irritable towards other members of staff. What can you do to help them and those around them?

  • Introduce an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to ensure your staff can access support
  • Create awareness raising activities to promote a healthier relationship with alcohol and support a healthy team goal. 
  • Reduce social events that are entirely geared around alcohol. Less trips to the pub after work!
  • Offer your staff regular health checks. Alcohol consumption has a massive effect on a range of health conditions, so with regular management and check-ups you can ensure you’re looking out for their overall health and wellbeing.
  • Be patient. If you feel you need to take further action and discuss the level of drinking with your employee, be sure to avoid accusatory language, know your employee’s rights and create a concrete action you can both take to improve the situation.

So, this alcohol Awareness Week, it’s time to reflect and react. Particularly this year with so many of us experiencing tough changes in the workplace, we can use this time to take a look at our own relationship with alcohol and be considerate towards others and how they may be dealing with everything this pandemic has thrown their way. Alcohol doesn’t just affect the person who’s drinking it. It can affect their loved ones, family, friends, workplace and wider community. And so, the steps we can take, big or small can have a brilliant, positive impact on everyone, for the long term.