Alcohol impacts performance, staff feel pressured to drink it

Group of friends drinking beer

Alcohol is the “defining social glue” for many young employees, with non-drinkers often excluded in many circles, according to new research by the think tank Demos in Britain.

The report Youth Drinking in Transition found that 43% of young workers (aged between 18 and 34) said that not drinking alcohol was a "barrier to social integration at work".

It also found that 23% of respondents said they performed less effectively at work because of alcohol.

A further 21% said they had gone to work with a hangover in the last month and 9% had been under the influence of alcohol in the workplace within the last month.

Moreover, 40% of young workers feel that the drinking culture at their work is important. Forty-four per cent of those surveyed said they drink with colleagues, and 10% with clients.

Some workers were worried about their progression in the workplace if they abstained, and a quarter cited peer pressure from colleagues to drink.

In particular, top professions such as business, law and finance appear to see drinking as “a powerful social currency”.

Ian Wybron, Senior Researcher at Demos, said that tackling excessive drinking cultures where they exist head-on is very important.

He added that encouraging more responsible norms and precedents at different life stages is “vital to building a more responsible drinking culture”.

“Excessive young drinkers commonly think that they will grow out of harmful drinking as they hit more ‘adult’ life stages,” said Wybron.

“But it is clear that while many will indeed move on, for others dangerous precedents are set that are much harder to shift.”

Among the report’s recommendations is that employers should engage employees in an open conversation on drinking and setting workplace alcohol policies, including how to ensure that work-based socialising and events are inclusive for non-drinkers.

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