Drinking at home: how employers can help

Lauren Booker | April 2020 | 7 minutes

Does your business have a plan for supporting your employees to manage their relationship with alcohol while working from home during the coronavirus pandemic – and if not, should you?

Fifty years ago, most drinking happened outside the home. That’s not the case any more; today, many of us increasingly associate home with drinking, and so being at home for an extended period - as we are during lockdown - can mean the temptation to drink earlier in the day, and drink more than usual, is higher. Add to this the extra stress and anxiety caused by being stuck at home, home schooling, losing routines, loneliness and Covid-19 itself, and you have a cocktail of triggers for drinking, and for our usual drinking rules (never on a school night, not before dinner) falling by the wayside.

This is an urgent problem. Higher levels of drinking will have immediate impacts, like reduced productivity and work quality as well as impacting on employee wellbeing, but may also have longer-term effects. Drinking habits, once formed, can be hard to break. Early intervention is far better, and forward-looking employers are putting in place measures to support their staff to maintain healthy drinking habits now.

Here’s list of the top five things that you can do as an employer.

1. Get your alcohol policy up to scratch

This is your first line of defence. Your alcohol policy should give guidance on what is and isn’t allowed when working. Whether employees are working from home or in the office, the same rules apply. This is a good time to send out a gentle reminder that their responsibilities while working haven’t changed and where to go for support if they’re getting into difficulties. If your workplace rewards hard work with alcohol, for example a bottle of wine, it’s important that you continue to reward achievement but perhaps switch to other means of saying well done. A food hamper, flowers or ‘virtual’ rewards that can be cashed in once the world starts to get back to normal would be welcomed.

Get more tips for updating your alcohol policy.

2. Encourage your staff to keep track

It’s all too easy for our drinking to creep up when we’re at home. We offer a free app, Try Dry, which will help your employees to track their drinking and motivate them to stay healthy or cut down. Features include: charts and graphs tracking your units, calories and money, as well as what you save when you cut down; badges you earn for dry days and cutting back; and the ability to set your own goals.

3. Support wider mental health

There are strong links between drinking and poor mental health. Alcohol is a risk factor for anxiety and depression, and yet it’s often the first thing we turn to when we feel under pressure. Make sure your employees know where to get support if they’re feeling stressed or anxious. If you have an employee assistance programme or other mental health support offer, remind your staff that they can access this if they need to. Don’t forget to mention that this includes help if they feel their drinking may be getting out of control. If you’re passing on mental health advice to your employees, you may wish to mention the government’s maximum recommended weekly guidelines of 14 units for both men and women.

4. Adapt your wellbeing programme

If you’d normally have a wellbeing programme for staff, that doesn’t have to stop and it can work to support healthy drinking. For example, Sober Spring has just started (check out the Alcohol Change UK website for details), Mental Health Awareness Week is coming up in May and there are lots of online events springing up to help employees to cope with the psychological challenges of homeworking, without turning to the bottle.

5. Offer information

There are plenty of resources available on the Alcohol Change UK website that will help to inform your staff about alcohol-related issues. We have interactive tools, blogs, stories and information, all free to access. We’ve even put together a coronavirus information and advice hub which offers advice specific to this time, and links people to further remote support if they need it.

To find out more about how Alcohol Change UK’s services can enhance your organisation’s health and wellbeing, please contact Sherry Adhami by email or on 0781 4004963.

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