Australians have a culture around alcohol consumption that can make it pretty hard to say no when someone suggests a drink. This attitude permeates a lot of our workplaces. At this time of year, it’s more pronounced than ever, with the after-work drinks and lunchtime drinks and special occasion drinks all merging into a month-long celebration that inevitably involves booze, and a lot of it.
But, drinking substantial amounts of alcohol can have a seriously detrimental effect on your work life, working relationships, work performance and safety, and potentially the safety of others, too.
Here are some of the main risk factors around alcohol consumption and work:
- Impaired judgement can lead to risk-taking behaviour, a disregard for health and safety practice standards, slow reaction times and poor attention to detail, which all compromise safety in the workplace
- A lack of inhibitions can give rise to antisocial behaviours with colleagues or professional associates, and negatively impact work-based relationships
- Feeling the after-effects of heavy drinking can lead to an increase in absences, lateness or illness while at work
- A worker who is affected by alcohol is unlikely to be as productive, efficient or effective in performance as they are when unaffected by alcohol
- The long-term health consequences of excess alcohol consumption can have a negative impact on a worker’s career development, job stability, financial security and mental and physical wellbeing.
The sort of work you do, the socio-cultural and age demographics you’re a part of and the culture of your workplace itself all influence how likely you are to engage in excessive alcohol consumption before, during or after work. How engaging your work is, the conditions you work in, the hours you work, the level of skill your work requires and the stress it induces are all factors in the work-alcohol equation, too.
But, whatever your job is, there are some things that both you and your workplace can do to help limit the adverse consequences of alcohol consumption in work contexts.
Does your workplace have an Alcohol Policy?
According to the experts at Worksafe Queensland, a good workplace alcohol policy should include measures to educate workers about the risks posed by alcohol consumption and outline the support structures for affected individuals. Within the policy, standards for conduct are established, health and safety risks are identified and strategies are devised to address them. This information should be disseminated as widely as possible.
Whether or not your work has an effective alcohol policy in place, you’ll still have to make some decisions as an individual about what behaviour is acceptable when it comes to festive season celebrations where alcohol is present.
Remember, you can choose not to drink at all if you’re worried about it – declining a drop doesn’t make you a killjoy. In fact, abstinence can be the smartest choice when it comes to the work Christmas party or other silly season social shindigs. That way, you know you’ll get to keep your dignity, safeguard your reputation, preserve your relationships and hold onto your job, too – which is definitely worth celebrating!
If you or someone you know is experiencing difficulties with alcohol or other substance use, contact Lifeline on: 131114 for advice.
Disclaimer – these articles are provided to supply general safety information to people responsible for OHS in their organisation. They are general in nature and do not substitute for legal and/or professional advice. We always suggest that organisations obtain information specific to their needs. Additional information can be found at www.workcover.nsw.au
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