Alcohol at work – clearly good work

Intervening in an employee’s or colleague’s alcohol problem can be a difficult situation for all involved. However, it is not worth letting the problem develop to the point that a serious intervention is required. The earlier you address the issue the better.

Drinking doesn’t always need to reach risk-level proportions – even the harmful effects of moderate alcohol use may be visible at work, for example, as lower productivity. If they are concerned about someone’s wellbeing, everyone has the right and duty to raise the issue – both supervisors and colleagues alike. From the perspective of an employee who is struggling with a problem, an open and professional approach will make even a difficult problem easier to address.

Are changes in working life increasing alcohol problems?

Automation, robotics and digitalisation are changing working life at a rapid pace. The amount of routine work is decreasing, while the need for creative thinking is increasing. A more independent approach to work supervision is required, as work is no longer tied to a specific time and place. The line between work and leisure-time may get blurred, and alcohol may become a routine way of marking the end of the working day.

Upheavals in working life may also increase stress, and people may try to relieve this stress with alcohol. However, alcohol is a bad stress reliever. Although a glass or two may relax you, drinking alcohol in the evening will reduce the quality of your sleep. It will also affect your wellbeing and energy levels the following day. Read why it doesn’t pay to tempt sleep with a nightcap.

Alcohol at work – tools for workplaces

Your workplace’s anti-substance abuse programme will describe things such as substance abuse prevention, the processes for referring employees for treatment, and their objectives. The anti-substance abuse programme is a management tool and aid that provides general guidance. It is also an effective way of supporting wellbeing at work and preventing the harmful effects of substance abuse.

Substance abuse prevention forms part of general efforts to promote safety and wellbeing at work. Occupational healthcare also plays an active role in preventing substance abuse problems. Cooperation between employers and occupational healthcare is also vital in resolving these issues.

See the Centre for Occupational Safety’s website to read more about substance abuse prevention in the workplace and anti-substance abuse programmes.

Alcohol causes significant costs for employers

According to The Numbers Speak for Themselves, a study funded by Alko and the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT), alcohol use causes annual costs of about EUR 500 million for Finnish companies. This is only a cautious estimate, as the real figure may reach EUR 900 million. Direct alcohol-related costs include absences due to drunkenness or hangovers and the resulting accidents or loss of productivity. Indirect costs may be incurred by the recruitment and induction of a new employee after a termination.

The study also shows that correctly scaled measures to prevent and reduce the harmful effects of alcohol at work will pay for themselves. Savings will be generated through, for example, improved productivity and fewer sickness absences. In addition to its financial impact, preventing the harmful effects of intoxicants at work is also an important humanitarian act.

The Clearly Good Work programme highlights the harmful effects of alcohol in working life

Alko launched its Clearly Good Work responsibility programme in 2015 with the following partners: the A-Clinic Foundation, the Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention (EHYT), KELA, the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the Centre for Occupational Safety, and the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. The programme seeks to spark off debate, and for the partners to collaborate on the production of materials and tools for dealing with the harmful effects of alcohol in the workplace.

Article sources:
EHYT Finnish Association for Substance Abuse Prevention
The Centre for Occupational Safety