Business counts the cost of binge drinking among young workers (10/05/2016)

A drinking culture among Britain’s youth appears to be having a significant impact on workplace productivity, according to new research.

Almost one in five (17 per cent) 18 to 34-year-olds admit going to work with a hangover that has caused them to be less productive at least 30 times in the past 12 months. This compares with just five per cent of 35 to 64-year-olds.

The study of 1,197 workers commissioned by Willis PMI Group, part of Willis Towers Watson, found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of workers in the 18 to 34-year-old age group believe their employer contributes to unhealthy levels of drinking among staff.

“The health dangers of excessive alcohol consumption, from organ damage to a weakening of the body’s immune system, have been well publicised, but the impact of lost productivity to UK plc is often overlooked,” said Mike Blake, Director at Willis PMI Group.

“This study reveals binge drinking is costing British business dear and fires a warning shot across the bows of managers and HR departments. Employers would be wise to address the issue by reviewing their workplace culture and conditions to ensure they’re not inadvertently stoking the flames of alcohol misuse.”

More than a quarter (28 per cent) of all workers admit to having gone to work with a hangover, with male workers (35 per cent) more culpable than their female counterparts (18 per cent). Eleven per cent of male workers say they do so regularly, compared with just four per cent of females.

Only 16 per cent of workers, however, said their employer offers health advice on alcohol consumption.

“If businesses take steps to identify whether or not alcohol is causing a problem to their employees’ health and to business productivity they can then train managers, where necessary, to recognise problems and pinpoint trends,” added Blake.

“Tackling the drinking habits of employees can be challenging, but advice and guidance on attitudes towards alcohol and sensible drinking can be included in a company’s health and wellbeing strategy,” Blake added.

“Support and interventions, such as EAP (Employee Assistance Programme) services, can help employees with alcohol-related problems.”

Alcohol has less of an impact on the workplace productivity of older workers, the study revealed. Only one per cent of 55 to 64-year-olds regularly go to work with a hangover and 90 per cent claimed to never do so.