Friday, September 7, 2012

Your Workplace May Increase Your Risk For Alcoholism

Workplaces then...

How long have you been working?  Depending on how you answer the question your personal experience may vary with regard to what is considered acceptable behavior in the workplace. It might be that if you are young enough, the hit television series MADMEN depiction of casual and excessive alcohol consumption in the office seems hard to imagine. But those of us who have been in the business world for a quite a few decades can relate to those images of men and women having a drink on the job and the after effects.



In the past, even if you worked on an assembly line, in construction, in retail, etc, chances are pretty good that if you didn't have a family to go home to (sometimes even if you did) it was not unusual to meet co-workers at a bar following your work day.  It is still called Happy Hour!

Additionally, historically many employers large and small sponsored Holiday Parties where alcoholic drinks flowed freely. Many employees regretted how they behaved at these parties, under the influence. Consider the infamous Seinfeld episode from season 8 episode 4 where Elaine later regrets her Christmas Party dance.

Workplaces now...

Over the decades what was referred to as the hiring department, became the personnel department, matured to be known as the employee relations department and for the most part is now known as the human resources department. Working in human resources can be quite rewarding and lucrative if you are highly educated and well versed in labor law. In fact, for very large companies the Director of Human Resources often holds a seat on the board of directors.  These departments enforce the workplace rules that all new hires agree to abide to while on the job, and sometimes even away from the workplace. And over time, as it became apparent that employers might or could be held responsible for safety (including over serving of alcohol), holiday parties were eliminated or scaled down, joining in on Happy Hour after work was discouraged, not to mention increasing the consequences of arriving to work "under the weather" or drinking on the job.  Now many large employers offer, as a benefit, access to an Employee Assistance Program which can include receiving assistance in getting treatment for alcohol or substance abuse.

But what if your workplace is a restaurant, complete with a bar?

If you have ever worked in a bar or restaurant/bar, then you already know how readily available alcohol is for all employees (before, during, and after hours). You probably already know how discouraging it is, on every level, when you receive a phone call from an employee saying they got stopped for driving under the influence after leaving work. You might even recognize that many of your co-workers actively abuse alcohol on the job or are alcoholics.  You probably also understand the stress level experienced by most restaurant/bar employees. From the executive chef to the bus-person, restaurant/bar workers are always "on stage" and being critiqued. So the fact that at least one country decided to study this phenomena probably won't surprise you.

Study results published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health

On Tuesday, September 4, 2012, the research results were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health.  The researchers surveyed 1,000 Swedish people, using a questionnaire. Both men and women ages 18 to 59 were surveyed. 600 of the employees surveyed were in the bar restaurant sector, while 400 were employed in different industries. Here are their findings:
  • 63% of the bar/restaurant employees had hazardous drinking habits.
  • Young women ages 18-29 were at greatest risk, with 82% of this age group reported drinking hazardous amounts.
  • 72% of the young men 18-29 reported drinking hazardous amounts
Bottom line, the study's results seemed to validate previous similar research conducted in both the United States and Norway, that is: Swedish restaurant and bar employees run a higher risk of alcoholism as compared to the rest of the population.  According to Agence France-Presse (AFP), the authors said this phenomenon has two plausible explanations: "Either the bar and restaurant industry attracts people who have a high alcohol intake from the outset, or that the stressful work environment and availability of alcohol are conducive to extensive alcohol consumption."

So now what?

These statistics are startling and admittedly the references to television shows that aptly depict the workplace and alcohol might be startling. You might wonder why we provided the clips from MADMEN and SEINFELD. They are here to seriously and visually portray the reality of the impact of alcohol abuse in the workplace has on one's life in every way. At the same time we may remember fondly the words to the theme song from CHEERS.
"Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got.
Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.
Wouldn't you like to get away?
Sometimes you wanna go..
Where everybody knows your name
and they're always glad you came.
You wanna be where you can see,
the troubles are all the same.
you wanna be where everybody knows your name..."
So this weekend if you happen to find yourself enjoying a meal in a restaurant/bar, take a minute and consider the stress that the employees might be experiencing. Maybe they are suffering from the disease of addiction, maybe they are trying to give you their very best...and maybe your smile and "thank you" might be just enough for them to seek help for their alcoholism. Remember Sam Malone, the owner of CHEERS? As entertaining as you found Sam to be, remember he was playing the role of a recovering alcoholic.

 

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