This April during Alcohol Awareness Month, we encourage Wellness Champions to educate staff and their loved ones about the dangers of misusing alcohol.
While completing their 2016 Strategic plans, many Champions indicated that in-house wellness programs are a major planning area for this year. Champions recently surveyed indicated “Scheduling Health Initiatives That Link to Monthly Observances” as their top plan for in-house programs. There is no better time to start than now!
According to the U.S. National Health Observances web-site (https://healthfinder.gov/nho/) April is alcohol awareness month. Alcohol use increases people’s risk of injuries, violence, drowning, liver disease, and some types of cancer. There are many different activities that Champions can plan to bring awareness to this issue. But first, why should engineers care?
- HEALTH. Alcohol is a wellness issue. Excessive drinking, alcohol misuse and abuse has a definite impact on health.
- STRESS. Workers in engineering firms operate under a great deal of stress. With high workloads, staff can resort to using alcohol as a way to unwind. The team may also enjoy going out for a drink as a way to bond when there is so much pressure. These outings can be healthy when done occasionally, are not the MAIN or primary way that the group bonds, and as long as workers moderate their drinking (see link above for guidelines).
- PERFORMANCE. A problem exists if any colleague (a) comes to, or misses work due, to alcohol use, or (b) alcohol use causes declines in performance, increased conflicts, or any untoward behavior (harassment and bullying). Research suggests that, on average, about 10% of employees show up to work impaired at some point during the year. In some occupations that engineers interact with (e.g., construction, transportation), this can range as high as 30%.
- GOING UNDERGROUND. As just noted, alcohol can lead to missed work or lowered performance. Sometimes staff can hide these signs, especially if they work remotely or only report to an office setting on a limited basis. Other workers can also be effected if they have pick up the slack of those individuals who decline in attentiveness.
Fortunately, according to researchers, workplace programs to prevent and reduce alcohol-related problems among employees have considerable potential. Since employees spend a lot of time at work, coworkers and supervisors may have the opportunity to notice a developing alcohol problem. In addition, employers can use their influence to motivate employees to get help for an alcohol problem. Many employers offer employee assistance programs (EAPs) as well as educational programs to assist anyone who may be experiencing problems with alcohol.
Awareness and Moderation
Anyone who is misusing alcohol can improve their health by cutting back or quitting. If you are not sure what it means to drink too much, check out these drinking calculators. If you want more in depth guidance, take a look at this NIH document on drinking and the impact on health.
Here are some simple strategies to help cut back or stop drinking:
- Limit drinking to no more than 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.
- Keep track of how much you drink.
- Choose a day each week when you will not drink.
- Don’t drink when you are upset.
- Avoid places where people drink a lot.
- Make a list of reasons not to drink.
Certain people should avoid alcohol completely, including those who:
- Plan to drive a vehicle or operate machinery
- Take medications that interact with alcohol
- Have a medical condition that alcohol can aggravate
- Are pregnant or trying to become pregnant
Here are some informational posters you can consider sharing at work
Good to Know: Alcohol Drinking Limits
Dr. Joel Bennett, Consultant to ACEC