The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 14, 2014

Does your workplace have a drinking culture (or problem)?

Do you hold a number of your business meetings at bars? Do you routinely take new recruits out drinking as part of their rite of passage in the company? Do most of your firm's social events involve happy hours or alcohol-centered parties? Is it expected that you will take clients out drinking until late at night?

If so, your company may have a drinking culture.

What's the problem with a drinking culture, you may ask. Plenty.

The abuse of alcohol can be costly. There are big concerns in terms of accidents or safety (when employees under the influence cause problems operating machinery), and lost productivity (substance abusers are 10 times more likely to miss work and are 33 percent less productive even when they are at work). In addition, the cost of replacing employees can cost anywhere from 25 percent to 200 percent of their annual compensation.

There are also higher health-care expenditures because of employee illnesses and injuries, which drive up premiums for employers. Alcohol users, like drug users, are more likely to file worker's compensation claims and injure themselves and others on the job. One survey found that 9 percent of heavy drinkers and 10 percent of drug users had missed work because of a hangover, 6 percent had gone to work high or drunk in the past year, and 11 percent of heavy drinkers and 18 percent of drug users had skipped work in the past month.

Morale is another concern. Employees can wonder what type of company they are working at when some can be drinking on the job and others have to pick up the slack. In addition, the drinking culture may be "educating" the next generation of workers.

What encourages such behavior?

Culture and availability of alcohol: Some workplaces have a culture that supports drinking during work hours. Lunch meetings may involve alcohol, happy hours are a big part of the work and celebrations or socials always have alcohol as a part of the event. One question to ask your company: Can you hold a social event without having alcohol or would no one come? If no one would come, what does that say about the culture of the company? Clearly, then, drinking alcohol has become ingrained.

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