How do you create a workplace culture with a mindful attitude to drink? How do you support a team you rarely see face to face? How do you know if they are coping with the pressures of home schooling or pandemic uncertainty?
In this podcast episode, we explore how to lead your team to drinking more mindfully as a way to reduce stress and improve mental health. We touch on how to speak to your boss about your drinking and how to create a workplace culture that supports people to drink less.
The discussion is hosted by Tara Kent from Champs, a Global Wellbeing Consultancy and partner with Club Soda. They support our Mindful Drinking Festival. And we hear from Sara Gaughan from Finlay James, a technology recruitment agency based in Manchester and the US. Ross Carter from The Drinks Trust – providing support, care and assistance to the drinks industry workforce since 1886. They offer a range of support to people in the food and drinks sector including a FREE Mindful Drinking Programme designed for the sector in partnership with Club Soda and Emma Heal, Managing Director of Lucky Saint – the 0.5% Superior Unfiltered Lager.
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As human beings, we’ve all got ways of coping with stress and we tend to draw on the things that have helped us in the past, they give us immediate relief. Alcohol is one of those things. Whenever I mention the word stress of the moment, the first thing suggested to me by many people is to have a large glass of wine.Tara Kent from Champs
Creating a workplace culture that does not revolve around booze
The Drinks Trust changed its focus to talk about mindful drinking in the past few years. After all, If the drinks sector can’t talk about a healthy relationship with alcohol then who can? There is strong evidence of alcohol-related harm in the industry and they wanted to tackle that positively. It is seen as part of an overall wellbeing package and is integral to mental health.
We did a survey at the end of last year of the drinks and hospitality industry. About 10% of respondents said that their main health and wellbeing concern was alcohol. But then stress was 55%. But the two things go hand in hand. Alcohol is a coping mechanism.Ross Carter. the Drinks Trust
Finlay James used to provide an office with a free bar that they thought was a perk. But through surveys and interviews they realised that this had actually had the opposite effect. Sara and John who run the company have used education about their story and their interest in alcohol-free drinks to actively role model. Staff now send them pictures of alcohol-free drinks they have found. By doing that they have improved their workplace culture and given staff the confidence to discuss the issue with them.
It’s something that I’ve really noticed in our sector. In recruitment you have a lot of sales incentives that revolve around alcohol. You have corporate events that have an unlimited amount of alcohol included. I’ll be honest, we’ve had a couple of issues along the way with that. It’s finding that balance, between offering some kind of reward for your staff but also wanting to look after their well being. We started to get feedback from our people that this [lots of alcohol] is something that they didn’t necessarily want anymore.Sara Gaughan, Finlay James
Creating permission for people not to drink
Lucky Saint as a company works to create permission for people not to drink, and throughout lockdown have used their Slack Channel to openly discuss wellbeing and create team challenges. Collectively they have taken on a walking challenge. Creating shared moments that don’t focus around alcohol is much stronger for team building.
It’s about communication. We’ve put lots of touch points in place, even if you’re on furlough. If you look in the detail of the furlough scheme, it’s all about driving revenue, but you can still keep in touch with your team. We still have a Monday morning meeting that everyone joins.Emma Heal, Lucky Saint
You are not alone. The low and no movement is growing. Do lean on the new wave of alcohol-free drinks. Find something new for the end of the day drink. Most of the drinkers of low and no alcohol drinks are also moderating.
How to know if someone is struggling with alcohol
With staff on furlough, some people have no contact with their team. People don’t always put stress and drinking together, so staff might report stress but don’t talk about what they are using to cope with it (often alcohol). So you could approach it from the stress and mental health angle. People are always scared about their job prospects if they are perceived to have drink issues, so a focus on well-being as a whole begins to create that workplace culture.
Furlough does not mean you can’t keep in touch with your team. have 1-1’s and do socials together. They don’t have to feel alone and on a limb. Open your 1-1’s with an open wellbeing question so you can understand what is going on. Give them an opportunity to talk about it and put resources in place to point them to.Emma Heal, Lucky Saint
Being open with your team about your drinking helps. Letting them know when you may be using it as a coping mechanism and why you’re cutting down. I’m just saying “I’m honestly feel perhaps I’m drinking too much at the minute”.
I think there’s a lot to do around normalising not drinking. Particularly in our industry and society. If you go out and you say to somebody would you like to drink? And they say ‘no, I don’t drink’, the immediate question is ‘why? How long have you not drunk for? What do you do in these situations? Is it difficult?’. I think that we need to be able to move past that. There should be no questions that follow that statement.Ross Carter. the Drinks Trust
In Cultures where alcohol is still prevalent there may not be signs you see but signs you hear. People start using drinking and hangovers as ‘bragging rights’ which is a sign of something bigger going on.Use it as a way to open the conversation. It can put you on the front foot.Tara Kent, Champs
How to talk to your boss about your drinking
You may not want to speak to a manager about it. But a buddy system allowing someone to open up about all sorts of work stuff in confidence can be a good idea.Sara Gaughan, Finlay James
Where to signpost staff for support
Many employees will have an EAP scheme which is confidential and involves counselling.
The Drinks Trust can help you with financial assistance, therapeutic services, sleep and insomnia treatment, managing alcohol consumption and more. So do look at their offer if you have worked in or still work in the food and drinking sector. You can also access support from Healthy Hospo. They have great articles and videos.
The courses run by Club Soda are also brilliant. 80% of the UK are trying to make healthier choices so don’t think this is something you are doing your own on.Emma Heal, Lucky Saint
Everyone can access local council funded services, and often people find that the hardest thing is actually making that first call. But what you’ve got on the other end of all of those services are people who understand, who want to help and who are willing to help. So please don’t be frightened to make that call. Once you’ve made it, you’ll probably feel a huge sense of relief.Tara Kent, Champs