Yes, we’re showing our age/dagginess here with those lyrics, but it highlights a point – Australians like to party and we are renowned for having  drinking culture. But now, we’re in FebFast it’s a good opportunity to look at the flipside of a partying culture whilst some of us are staying temporarily sober.

How many times in your life have you been out on a ‘school night’ and gone to work the next day feeling a little shady? (Sheepishly guilty in this office.) Heck, some work Christmas parties are even held on week nights, which can contribute to the post-party hangover. Then think about Melbourne Cup day, ANZAC Day, any other party occasion that can occur midweek when work looms the following day.  There are a lot of occasions that we may have seen or experienced the effects of a big night at work.

Sure, it might be entertaining for some to laugh about the night before with their colleagues, but there is a darker side to this social pattern – mental health issues and the dollar impact of alcohol use on businesses.

Here are some fast facts you may not know:

–       One-third of Australian workers aged 18-54 admit to showing up to work hungover or affected by alcohol at least once in the past year. (We saw that guilty expression, by the way.)

–       Absenteeism and productivity declines related to alcohol use cost the Australian economy $26 billion per year

–       Alcohol use increases as workplace stress rises, with approximately two-thirds of Australian workers admitting to using alcohol to unwind after a particularly hard day

Sobering facts, hey? (Ahem, pun intended).

We realise that staff are people first and employees second, which often means personal lives sometimes creep into work life. We’re human after all and not robots. But this personal stuff can (and does) affect things like productivity, morale and absenteeism. That’s where Employee Assistance Programmes (EAPs) come in to play.

Did you know that the original EAP’s started in the 1970’s, as an extension of Alcoholics Anonymous? They were introduced because organisations started to notice the impact of alcohol abuse on both their bottom line and on the health of their employees.

Today EAP’s are used for all sorts of issues, but substance use (not just alcohol) remains one of the number one problems that people seek counselling assistance with.

Over the past few decades, the types of drugs available have changed – drugs have become more dangerous and addictive but also readily more available. Health experts have been telling us for years that alcohol is just as dangerous. It’s taking some time for that message to sink in, perhaps because alcohol is legal and considered more socially acceptable than illicit drugs. In Australia, we have a culture that normalises and encourages social drinking, perhaps even binge drinking, but increasingly people are starting to associate excess alcohol use with violent and anti-social behaviours and adverse health effects.

So, what does it all mean for you? If we think about the fast facts above, there are consequences for business in the social behaviours of their staff – think about health and safety (hot topic!) and the potential damage to your brand if someone in your workplace is affected by alcohol.

What can you actually do about this? Well, services like an EAP are great for people that are already experiencing the adverse affects of substance use, but we like businesses to be proactive rather than reactive. The worst thing you can do is sweep this one under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist, because it’s likely that the majority of your workforce (and you too, perhaps?) consume alcohol on a pretty regular basis.

Don’t worry, we’re not going to tell you to cancel your Friday night drinks just yet (we aren’t cancelling ours). But awareness is what we’re on about.

The best thing you can do for your staff is get them engaged; get them informed about alcohol use, and start talking about it. There are many companies out there who will develop information sessions and training programs focused around a range of health and wellbeing topics that can be delivered to your employees onsite.

Initiatives  like Febfast are also great for the workplace, as they get people bonding over a common goal of remaining alcohol free for 28 days. Teams can get together to try and beat fundraising goals, and it gets your staff talking about the benefits they notice from abstaining from alcohol. Get your senior leaders and managers on board with this one too.

Knowledge sharing, teamwork, and an engaged workforce. These are the things that successful businesses get right when it comes to employee health and wellbeing.

If you want more information about Health and Wellbeing programmes at your workplace, you know where to come.

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