Reducing harm caused by alcohol


Alcohol and the Workplace: Effective Interventions

The COVID-19 pandemic and associated restrictions have affected all our lives, adding pressures we never imagined dealing with. Many studies have found changes in our drinking patterns linked to mental health, boredom, and isolation.

In this blog Brian O’Hara, senior coordinator for learning and development, explores some of the challenges of home working during a pandemic and asks how organisations are looking after their staff in relation to alcohol.

I am finding it hard to believe that we’re fast approaching a year of working remotely. Almost a year where my only contact with the rest of my team has been through a window on the laptop. I get out of bed and I’m immediately in my office. And then the juggling starts. The fast pace of work as we have adapted to our new circumstances. A daughter in a similar boat, trying to learn from home and only seeing her classmates like I see my teammates. A labrador who doesn’t understand the concept of working from home and wants a walk with his favourite human – particularly when I’m in meetings. Seeing my wife less as her work needs her more and more.

Laptop showing a video meeting

Sound familiar? I know I’m not alone. Millions of us have been living this new reality with the impact of COVID-19, the associated restrictions, and new pressures on our work life balance. My experience probably resonates with many of you. I know I’m quite fortunate - there are lots of people out there facing a much more challenging time. And we’re all coping in our own ways.

Several studies have found that some people have increased their alcohol consumption during the pandemic and that it often linked to mental health, boredom, and isolation. A recent survey by Alcohol Focus Scotland found that 18% of people surveyed had used alcohol to manage stress or anxiety, and half had increased their drinking to cope.

A Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) survey[1] conducted in August 2020 found that over a quarter (27%) of those surveyed had increased their alcohol consumption because of the pandemic and associated restrictions.

Further reports have shown an increase in people drinking earlier in the day[2] and 90% of those reported drinking while working at home[3].

While drinking might temporarily make us feel relaxed and less stressed, as we drink more it can have the opposite effect. Drinking can disrupt our sleep and increase our levels of anxiety which over time can lead to further problems.

Sir Richard Branson is often quoted as saying: “If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple.”

So how are you looking after your staff in terms of alcohol?

Alcohol can have a profound impact on your staff's health and wellbeing, absenteeism and productivity. As employers, we also have important legal duties to protect employee’s health and safety.

As lockdown restrictions continue into 2021, our need to support employee welfare has never been more important than it is now.

Here are three key interventions that are effective and recommended for all workplaces.

1.     Workplace alcohol policy

One of the best ways to address alcohol issues within the workplace is to have an alcohol policy which covers the entire workforce.

2.     Alcohol awareness sessions

When developing or revising a workplace alcohol policy it is important to keep all staff informed of the process, including what the proposed/revised policy will cover and when this will be implemented. To support this, it can be useful to have an alcohol awareness session for staff which helps build understanding about why this is needed and the benefits to the workforce.

3.     Training for managers/supervisors

To ensure the meaningful and consistent implementation of the alcohol policy, it is critical that all managers and supervisors have knowledge and confidence to handle any issues which arise.

Training on the key elements of the policy and how to conduct workplace interviews if required can be vital to ensuring the policy is used effectively.


Alcohol Focus Scotland has a number of resources and training sessions scheduled for 2021 to help your organisation. You can also contact our Learning and Development team to see how we can support your organisation.

[1] Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development. (2020). Managing Alcohol & Drug Misuse at Work. Available: Last accessed 26th Jan 2021.

[2] Professor Adam R Winstock MD. (2020). Global Drug Survey - Special Edition on COVID-19. Available: Last accessed 1st Feb 2021.

[3] HRNews. (2020). 90% admit to boozing while working from home. Available: Last accessed 1st Feb 2021.