The past year and a half have been incredibly stressful and isolating for most people, and it’s no surprise many turned to alcohol to help cope.
According to a study done by the National Institutes of Health, 60% of American adults’ alcohol consumption increased during the pandemic – and 46% said stress was the reason for it.
Alcohol tends to be a touchy subject and isn’t normally discussed at work, but drinking can affect work performance, whether it be absenteeism, presenteeism, underperformance or mood swings.
Not to mention, it can negatively impact employees’ health long term.
Tackling it head-on
It’s important for HR pros to not shy away from the subject of alcohol. Heres’s how to address drinking (and not drinking) at work, according to co-founders of the nonprofit Bee Sober, Lisa Elsworth and Alexandria Walker, which they shared at the 2021 SHRM annual conference.
The most important thing HR leaders can do is destigmatize not drinking. Elsworth and Walker say many people assume if someone doesn’t drink, they have alcoholism, which isn’t always the case.
HR pros can help reduce alcohol talk at work that can make non-drinkers uncomfortable. For example, ban phrases like, “You look like you could use a drink.” Avoid implying that drinking is necessary in order to relax or have fun.
Another important thing to do is have plenty of non-alcoholic drink options at parties or events. There’s nothing worse than a sober person’s only beverage option being water. Having more options shows you care about their preferences, and they’ll look less disconnected from the employees who drink if they’re holding a juice or soda.
And it’s crucial for HR leaders to be vigilant for any signs of alcohol abuse. If an employee is frequently looking hungover or appears to be drinking during the daytime, it’s important to take action immediately.