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Understanding Alcohol and its Place in Your Workplace Culture

Alcohol within the culture of a workplace has become the norm for many organizations, not just for holiday enjoyment. For some, alcohol can be found in meetings, at desks or as the centerpiece for events both in and out of the office. If that sounds familiar, you will want to have a solid understanding of how your workplace culture effects the drinking habits of your employees and the risks that come with it.

Your workplace culture is a shared understanding between employees. That is to say it is comprised of customs, traditions, and a number of other factors that affect individuals and the community as a whole.

To put it simply, it’s a combination of what you choose to condone and what you choose to condemn in the workplace environment. This can lead to the creation of formal—and in some cases, informal—rules regarding alcohol.

Your workplace culture plays a crucial role in your employees’ behavior when it comes to their alcohol consumption, their drinking patterns and the availability of alcoholic drinks. It also plays a significant role in their attitude toward alcohol in specific work contexts, whether it’s in the office, the breakroom or at an off-site work event. By gaining an understanding of these norms, you’ll be able to begin implementing practices that preserve your unique culture while creating a healthier place to work.

To begin developing these practices, here are a few things to consider:

  • Identify the extent and nature of potential alcohol-related risks to the safety and health of employees
  • Identify and implement appropriate responses to alcohol-related harm
  • Develop a safe workplace environment around alcohol aimed at preventing and managing alcohol-related harm in the workplace.

The rules you enforce and the actions you encourage form, influence and maintain your employee’s beliefs, values, attitudes and behaviors regarding alcohol. Your workplace responses should be based on quality occupational safety and health practices that are consistent with your workplace’s occupational safety and health framework, insurance and risk management approach.

The last thing you want to do as an employer is create an environment that leads to your employees being harmed, especially by alcohol. By understanding the relationship between workplace culture, workplace factors and alcohol use, you will be able to create safety and health practices that are in line with your culture, as well as your safety requirements.

A happy and safe workplace is a successful workplace. When you know the relationship between alcohol and your workplace culture, you’ll be one step closer to achieving just that.

If you have any questions about any of the suggestions above, please contact our team, or your insurance agent or broker.

David A. Harnois, CCM, CPL, is a proud employee owner of VGM Insurance Services, specializing in commercial and group program business. David provides insurance solutions for hundreds of clubs and may be reached at (319) 800-6676 or at


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