Employees feel pressured by co-workers to drink

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Employers should provide more alcohol-free events, as research shows employees feel obliged to drink too much

Forty-three per cent of working adults who drink say there is too much pressure to drink when socialising with work colleagues, according to research by Drinkaware.

Its survey of 2,045 UK adults found that co-workers are more influential than family members or spouses in encouraging them to drink more alcohol. A third (33%) reported having been pressured by colleagues to drink more than they set out to, compared to 29% by family members and 26% by spouses or partners.

When looking at the reasons for excessive drinking, two in five (43%) working adults who drink reported drinking more alcohol than they intended because they were in a round, compared with 37% of UK adults overall. Nearly two-fifths (38%) drink more because they do not want to seem impolite by refusing a drink.

Men are more likely than women to have experienced pressure to drink from their boss or superior (13% compared with 8%).

Workers expressed concern about the amount of alcohol they drink, with more than half (53%) saying they would like there to be less pressure to do so.

Drinkaware’s chief executive Elaine Hindal confirmed that some employees don't turn down alcohol out of politeness. “Our research lifts the lid on a culture of peer pressure in the workforce. It speaks volumes that more than half of people who work say they would like there to be less pressure to drink,” she said.

“And it seems from our new research that being polite, not wanting to confront a situation and feeling the need to keep up could be preventing many of us from standing up to that pressure.”

Speaking to HR magazine, Hindal added that employers have a duty to protect employees from the risks associated with alcohol, and should consider having more alcohol-free events. "Employers have a duty of care to [protect] the health, safety and welfare of their employees. We absolutely believe employers can play a vital role in setting out messages about the risks of drinking," she said.

"Employers really should be thinking about how to engage their employees without having events or activities that are centred around alcohol. There are plenty of team events that don’t revolve around alcohol and that will engage employees; such as activity-based or food-oriented events."

If alcohol is going to be present at an event, Hindal advised employers to ensure there are alternatives available. "There are a growing number of low or no-alcohol drinks, which employers could offer at events to make sure there is plenty of choice for people who don’t want to drink alcohol or those who feel there’s too much pressure to drink," she said.

Further reading

Employees fear losing jobs over addictions

A fifth blame employers for excessive drinking

How to spot addiction in the workplace

A third regret actions after drinking at work

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