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Being Mindful about Alcohol in the Workplace

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Initiatives like Sober October and Dry January have nudged people to re-evaluate their relationship with alcohol and have sparked year-round discussions about the role of alcohol in our lives and workplaces. In this article Jo Ferbrache, also known as ‘Sober Jo,’ discusses how alcohol affects workplace performance, decision-making, and overall wellbeing.

Jo also explores the importance of providing alcohol-free options and fostering a culture of inclusivity and support for those who choose not to drink.

The Workplace and Alcohol’s Impact

Alcohol, when enjoyed mindfully, can be a way to have fun and unwind. However, it’s no secret that it can also wreak havoc in both personal lives and the workplace.

From impaired decision-making to sleep deprivation and those dreaded hangovers, it undeniably affects an employee’s ability to bring their A-game. The infamous “Monday blues” and the surge in sick days following weekend binges are glaring indicators of this issue.

Employers – it’s crucial to grasp that the wellbeing of your workforce directly influences their productivity, and alcohol plays a significant role in this equation.

I’ll admit it—I used to be part of the problem. I was what some might call a “booze bully,” enthusiastically urging colleagues to get involved in happy hour without fully grasping the consequences. In my misguided attempts at team bonding, I inadvertently championed unhealthy habits.

The reality is that everyone is unique; what works for one person might not work for another. Some people can skilfully moderate their alcohol intake, but for others, me included, a single drink can set off a chain reaction, leading to alcohol-related issues.

The Relationship Between Alcohol and Self-Worth

It’s vital to recognise that many people who rely on alcohol may struggle with self-worth and confidence issues. Alcohol can sometimes serve as a crutch to conceal these underlying insecurities.

While addressing the detrimental effects of alcohol is essential, we must also provide support for people looking to boost their self-esteem and self-confidence. Fostering a culture of empathy and assistance in the workplace can be a game-changer for those striving to break free from alcohol dependency.

Creating Awareness

It’s essential to raise awareness about alcohol’s far-reaching impact on people’s lives and health.

I personally struggled to navigate the ‘work hard, drink harder’ culture at breweries and agencies, where alcohol was a staple in the work environment.

We must break free from this culture and normalise healthier choices. Many people have reasons for not drinking or are eager to quit altogether, realising that it no longer serves them. Others aim to become more mindful of their alcohol consumption.

Mindful Drinking Conversations

We should foster conversations around mindful drinking, making it an ongoing dialogue.

Encouraging employees to make choices that align with their wellbeing is key. The more we normalise not drinking and celebrate the beauty of a healthy, happy lifestyle, the more we empower others to follow suit.

Initiatives like ‘Happier Hour’ sessions can provide employees with an alternative perspective. I’ve been there, made the positive choice to abstain, and can share the value of mindful drinking without judgment.

Avoid Creating Shame

Shaming those who opt not to drink can backfire. If people feel judged for abstaining from alcohol, they might avoid social gatherings altogether.

It’s important to cultivate a judgment-free workplace culture where everyone feels valued, regardless of their choices.

Providing Alternative Sober Sips

When offering alcohol to colleagues, we should also provide alcohol-free options in the workplace. Keep the fridge stocked with alcohol-free alternatives to ensure that people who choose not to drink feel included rather than different or like an inconvenience.

Consider replacing the occasional Friday happy hour with Monday mood-boosting juices or evening activities where alcohol isn’t the centre of attention. Encouraging people to socialise without alcohol, in a positive manner, can foster personal and professional growth.

Transparency and Policies

Developing a workplace policy that encourages responsible alcohol consumption and provides clear guidelines can help set the tone. Be transparent about your commitment to employees’ wellbeing. Instead of joking about someone’s choice to cut down or abstain from alcohol, celebrate it. I’ve had clients who plucked up the courage to tell their boss about their decision to take a break, only to hear laughter about how they’d better be drinking again by the Christmas party. We must remember that just because someone doesn’t appear to have a ‘problem’ doesn’t mean that alcohol isn’t a problem for them.

The Office Christmas Party Season

As the Office Christmas party season approaches, let’s rethink our approach to these events.

Rather than fixating solely on alcohol-centred parties, let’s diversify the activities and offer non-alcoholic options that cater to everyone’s preferences. It’s time to step away from the tradition of gifting alcohol and embrace a more inclusive and health-conscious way of celebrating Christmas in the workplace.

Sober October and Dry January are fantastic starting points for discussing mindful drinking, but these conversations should extend beyond a few months a year.

Alcohol’s impact on workplace performance, health, and wellbeing is substantial. By providing alcohol-free options, promoting inclusivity, encouraging open conversations, and supporting individuals in building their self-worth and confidence, we can create a healthier, more connected, and more supportive workplace culture and workforce.

World Wellbeing Week 2024

June 24 – June 30

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