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Workplace culture that discourages drinking gets results

According to a study published in the May 24, 2007 online edition of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, workplace cultures that discourage drinking make employees less likely to drink heavily both on and off the job. The study included 5,338 workers nested in 137 supervisory workgroups from 16 U.S. worksites. Among the workgroups that most discouraged drinking, 45% of the employees were less likely to be heavy drinkers, 54% less likely to be frequent drinkers and 69% less likely to drink at work than those in the most encouraging groups.

Frequent drinking was defined as drinking any amount of alcohol five or more days a week within the previous 30 days. Heavy drinking for men was defined as having five or more drinks in one day over the past month; for women the definition was four or more drinks in a day.

Workers were considered to drink at work if they reported drinking during the workday or if they had drunk alcohol in the past 30 days two hours before going to work, during lunch or a break, while working, before driving a vehicle on company business, or at a company-sponsored event.

Social norms of drinking were determined by employees’ responses to statements relating to drinking with clients, socializing with co-workers over drinks, serving alcohol at company functions, etc. The statements included: Having a drink or two after work to relax; getting together for drinks after work; drinking with clients and customers is good for business; supervisors miss key information if they don't socialize with colleagues over a drink; a drink or two a day is good for a person's health; having a few beers at lunch is a reasonable way to deal with a boring job; the more frequently people are exposed to alcohol, the more likely they are to develop an alcohol problem; serving alcohol at a company social event sets a bad example.

Measures of worksite management tolerance were based on responses by managers to questions about how tolerant the worksite was about drinking in an earlier survey of the same sites.

It behooves a company to assess its workplace environment relating to drinking as alcohol impairment often results in costly injuries, illnesses and diseases.