You Booze You Lose … At Work


Despite some employee preferences, alcohol isn't a good idea for the workplace.

It’s a pretty common thought that employers don’t want drug-using employees on their payroll. And for many obvious reasons – high absenteeism, loss of productivity, and higher incidence of sickness. While drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are obvious “no-nos” at work, alcohol use seems to occasionally slip by. Blame it on a client culture of client parties, or holiday Christmas festivities among co-workers, but there’s more of a tolerance to alcohol-abusing employees when it comes to the workplace. And although it may be tempting to “let it slide” since alcohol use is so common, it’s not a good idea to invite it to work. And here’s why:

You Can Lose Business

It’s said that you only have one shot at a first impression. So, what if that impression for a potential client is based on of a hung over receptionist answering the phone, or a tipsy salesperson who stutters over his or her words on a conference call. In addition to poor first impressions, alcohol-abusing employees tend to also have poor work quality, unexplained absence, reduced productivity and poor concentration. That’s why strictly enforcing a drug and alcohol-free workplace brings great benefits. Take this example given by the DOL:

One small plumbing company in Washington, D.C., the Warner Corporation, saved $385,000 in one year by establishing a drug-free workplace program that included EAP services. The company attributed the savings to a decrease in the number of accidents, which resulted in lower workers’ compensation costs and lower vehicle insurance premiums. Warner now has a waiting list of top-flight mechanics wanting to work in its drug-free environment, saving the company $20,000 a year on personnel advertising costs. Additionally, the proportion of apprentices completing a two-year training course has increased from 25 percent to 75 percent, resulting in annual savings of $165,000.

You Lose Money

According to Working Partners, “Alcohol and drugs cost American businesses about $81 billion in lost productivity per year — $37 billion due to premature death, and $44 billion due to illness.” Not only can you lose business because of damaged client relationships and loss of productivity, but a drug and alcohol-abusing employee can cost you in healthcare costs and workers compensation, too. In the end, you will pay for an employee who is often sick from alcohol abuse – whether by training a replacement, paying for injury or through rising healthcare rates.

You Can Damage Your Reputation

We understand that some workplaces have a culture that is more alcohol-friendly. In fact, we know that the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) shared that HR professionals reported that drinking is acceptable:

  • 70 percent: at a holiday party,
  • 40 percent: at a meal with a client or customer,
  • 32 percent: at a retirement party,
  • 28 percent: at the celebration of a company milestone,
  • 22 percent: at a meal with a coworker,
  • 4 percent: at a meal during a job interview, and
  • 14 percent: never.

The majority of HR professionals find a culture of drinking sometimes acceptable. Environments that are particularly male-dominated have the highest incidence of a drinking culture at work. And while we understand that this may change culture-to-culture, we encourage any workplace manager to strictly enforce a drug and alcohol policy at work. As an alcohol-testing facility in Kansas City, we work with many employees and employers who suffer from the effects of alcohol use at work. And it’s not pretty. Be sure you have the right boundaries and guidelines set for your workplace policy on drinking.

Safety is at Stake

Now we realize when your employee’s main job is to staple copies or send emails, this point might not ring home as much. But if you employ pilots, locomotive conductors, or those who operate machinery – this carries a more powerful punch. Enforcing a very strict policy for no alcohol at the workplace, and zero tolerance for arriving to work hung over, doesn’t only save you money – but it keeps employees safe, too. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Anthology’s report from “Alcohol and Work,” stated “Working under the influence of alcohol could compromise work performance and present a safety risk to the drinking employee and other workers.”

There are many reasons why alcohol + workplace = not good. These are just some of the most common reasons we advocate an alcohol-free workplace as we work with Kansas City companies to perform alcohol testing. If you’ve experienced other reasons why alcohol and the workplace don’t mix well, let us hear them!

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