By Andie Burjek
Jan. 15, 2020
Bars in the CEO’s office, regular happy hours, beer taps in the employee lounge, over-the-top holiday parties, job descriptions that describe office alcohol consumption as a perk — alcohol has a common presence in many workplaces.
While it is a legal substance, it can also be dangerous.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from 2013, the most recent available, 17 percent of U.S. adults or 20.6 million people report binge drinking. Some 2.8 million adults who report heavy or binge drinking meet the criteria for alcohol dependency. Also, alcohol is the only substance from which people can die from withdrawal symptoms.
It would be beneficial to provide training for employees about alcohol, said Andrea Elkon, clinical psychologist and director of behavioral health for Alliance Spine and Pain Centers. That could help employees know what signs to look out for and how to respond appropriately when they have a concern.
She also questioned the message leaders may be sending. “Maybe executives shouldn’t have bars in their office, because what kind of tone does that set?” she said.
When it comes to company parties, Elkon suggests that alcohol-free events or social activities not centered around alcohol are a good idea, especially for employees dealing with an alcohol dependence.
Morgan Young, vice president of client services, employee benefits at Holmes Murphy, also suggested limiting drink tickets at company parties. Further, though, there’s something deeper than company party policies to address here. Leaders should think about what is impacting employees to go home and down a bottle of wine and if there’s anything the company can do to change that behavior, she said.
Employees may feel stressed at work for internal reasons or external reasons, like job pressures or family responsibilities. Young said.
“You can acknowledge that fact that people are going to have struggles in their life and nobody is going to be at peak performance 100 percent of the time, and that’s OK. Employers can have a healthy conversation about that and know that, ‘If I can get [employees] through the valleys they have and back to their peak, we’re doing great,’” Young said.
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