There is a growing trend of people deciding to take a break from alcohol, or going 100% alcohol-free. This has led to a 58% increase in alcohol-free beer sales within the last year. The trend for alcohol-free living is especially true for millennials, who make up a large proportion of the UK workforce, as they tend to be more concerned about their health and wellbeing.
Employees choosing to go alcohol-free, or take a break from alcohol, are likely to become more productive and therefore more valuable to your business. Taking a break from alcohol improves quality of sleep – helping people feel more energised at work the next day; it improves general health – meaning fewer days off work due to illness, and improves focus and concentration – potentially helping employees get more done in your workday.
However drinking in, or with, the office has creeped back into fashion over recent years, thanks in part to the cultural influence of Silicon Valley and Friday booze trolleys, with the emphasis on workplaces being “fun” and a move towards people working incredibly long days.
According to recent statistics, one in five UK employees will attend after-work drinks with colleagues at least once a month, especially on a Friday night; and two thirds will head out for drinks with colleagues as a coping mechanism after a particularly stressful day. But while socialising with co-workers may help forge better working office relationships, as soon as we start equating out-of-hours drinking with getting ahead, problems can arise.
Taking measures towards a healthier office drinking culture is becoming increasingly important to support employees who are going alcohol-free. Ensuring a comfortable working environment, and eliminating any requirements to shmooze the boss over a bottle of wine in an attempt to secure career success, will ensure employees can make decisions around alcohol that are right for them.
Champion alternative stress relief tactics in your business
Build strong internal relationships (without alcohol): Having a strong social network in the workplace can help employees to de-stress and feel supported throughout the workday. These kinds of relationships can not only buffer many workplace stress factors but can also give employees a friendly face to talk to and share their problems with. Stable friendships with co-workers allow your employees to discuss stressful topics without having to hold back because the person they are talking to is a manager or member of HR.
One way to build strong relationships in your business is to create a “buddy” system. When a new employee joins the team, pairing them up with an existing member of staff can help to combat some of the initial awkwardness of trying to build new inter-office relationships.
Endorse a physical activity programme Getting more physical activity in our daily lives can help to keep stress under control. Exercise is naturally mood-boosting and can do wonders to work out all the pent up stress and anxiety we feel in our day-to-day lives. Running different physical activities through the workplace can also help to encourage building those relationships we talked about.
There are plenty of simple and easy ideas you can implement across your team:
1.Encourage walking lunch breaks. As an employer, you are in a great position to help your staff get in the 30 minutes of physical activity they need every day. Advocate for your employees to take their lunch breaks away from their desks and enjoy a brisk walk outside during the day.
2.Incorporate active desks. Being sedentary for eight hours a day is more detrimental to our health than many believe. There are a number of products out there now that can help to transform your employee’s desks into standing desks.
3.Launch wellness challenges. Making health and wellness into a challenge can spark the competitive spirit that’s hiding below the surface of many of your employees. These can take the form of step challenges or meat-free Mondays. As long as they have an incentive to take part and someone to share it with, it can help de-stress and boost morale.
Support employees who are going alcohol-free to improve their nutrition
Drinking alcohol can take its toll on the body, increase fatigue and is known to inhibit fat loss. Nutrition is an area that requires focus when becoming alcohol-free.
When becoming alcohol-free, people should eat a diet that will balance the levels of serotonin (a hormone that helps with relaxation) in the brain. This involves eating a nutritious diet, including good levels of protein each day, alongside complex carbohydrates found in starchy foods like legumes (e.g., beans, lentils and peas) and root vegetables (e.g., sweet potatoes, beetroots, carrots). Eating these foods in combination with a high intake of non-starchy vegetables and fruit (at least the recommended ‘5 a day’) will keep help keep employees at their best.
In the first year of becoming alcohol-free, nutrition needs can be higher than normal. People stopping, or taking a break from alcohol, will benefit from making sure they’re feeding their bodies good food on a daily basis. Even if they eat a healthy, varied diet while using alcohol, fewer nutrients are available to satisfy nutritional needs since a lot of those nutrients are being used to detoxify the body.
Review your company culture for “beer pressure”
Does your business routinely take new staff out drinking to initiate them when they start? Do you hold any of your business meetings in pubs? Do most of your company’s social events (like the office Christmas or summer party) involve alcohol? Are employees expected to take clients out drinking at lunchtime or in the evening? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, your business has a drinking culture that needs to be addressed in order to support employees who are going alcohol-free. There are a number of changes that can be put in place to remove the pressure for employees to drink alcohol at work:
Be mindful of inadvertently pressuring others, especially newcomers: Inviting a new employee for a drink in their first few weeks on the job may seem like a benign, welcoming move, but for those who choose to be alcohol-free it can be anything but. It can inadvertently put pressure on them to consume alcohol to fit in, or avoid offending those they wish to impress or bond with. This could create a lasting and harmful impression that their job performance is tied to their willingness to drink. Put a pause on suggesting they join you at happy hour until they’ve found their footing.
Establish healthy boundaries around alcohol: It is necessary to communicate approval for maintaining healthy drinking levels or advocating for the freedom to stay alcohol-free to establish a healthy workplace culture. The simplest step towards this is have rules in place about consumption of alcohol during work time. Appropriate leadership example is also key as employees often take their lead from the boss.
Plan alcohol-free social events: Employees who don’t drink should not be made to feel ostracised at work events. Some people abstaining from alcohol are happy attending events where alcohol is present; for others, alcohol-fuelled social events could act as a trigger. To ensure all of your employees have the chance to socialise comfortably, add in a social events without booze. The benefit of this is that the bonding and memories formed when sober can last longer than the blurry antics of Friday night drinks. If you are planning after work drinks, choose a bar where there’s an activity to do other than drinking, like table football, darts or pool. If you notice someone abstaining, do not under any circumstances pressure them to drink. In fact, be the one that rescues them if they are being pressurised.
Introduce an alcohol-free challenge to give employees extra support: As the alcohol-free movement gains momentum, more and more people are independently joining organisations such as One Year No Beer looking for a community of like-minded people for support in going against societal drinking behaviour. Offering alcohol-free challenges through organisations such as this as part of a company’s wellness program can show employees they have the option and support to transform their relationship with alcohol should they choose to. Whole teams or organisations can complete challenges together as an opportunity for team bonding.
Put boundaries on the drinks fridge, and add alcohol-free alternatives: Trends regarding alcohol availability in the office come and go, with a number of articles published about companies that offer alcohol to their employees in the workplace, and then those who are rethinking their approach to alcohol removing it. If your office is stocking up on alcohol, make sure to be mindful of those who are trying to abstain. Include some soft drink and alcohol-free options for them, in the same way as you would cater for vegetarians or vegans in the office when ordering food.
As an employer, it is your job to support employees and make sure they feel happy, comfortable, and valued in the workplace. While giving up alcohol is a personal endeavour more than a professional one, the advantages of alcohol-free employees can spill over into the workplace with higher performance and lower absenteeism rates. Additionally employers who help staff going alcohol-free will ensure they feel helped and supported in their not drinking journey. There are a number of tools out there that can help you and your employees through this journey. They don’t need to go it alone, and neither do you. Challenges like One Year No Beer can help you to support your business and employees as they endeavour to live alcohol-free.
If you are interested in finding out more about One Year No Beer and the OYNB alcohol-free challenges, visit www.oneyearnobeer.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.