Thousands of functioning alcoholics across the UK drink heavily because they have stressful jobs: they work to impossible deadlines; their work carries an enormous amount of responsibility; day after day, they toil in a high pressure environment where results are everything, and where there is no time to pause for a moment and to assess if where they work (and if the job they do) is massively detrimental to their health.
It is perhaps understandable, then, that a few drinks after work is something that many of us regard as “essential”.
But what if alcohol is readily available in the workplace?
Is a restaurant or bar worker more likely to drink? Studies show that if alcohol is readily available in the workplace, people will surrender to temptation sooner or later, and it might even become a habit. There may be pressure to drink – pressure from colleagues and even the boss (!), as Morgan, a waitress in one of Manchester’s top hotels, discovered after taking a job there last June:
“I needed some paid work to see me through the summer, and so was grateful when the Hotel gave me a job. What I didn’t bargain on was the drinking culture there; how all the bar staff and waiting staff were expected to stay behind (after their evening shift) to drink with the Restaurant Manager, the Duty Manager, and other senior personnel.”
“It was never spelled out to us that refusing to join in the post-shift drink-ups would result in us losing our jobs, but that’s what happened to a couple of girls who simply did not drink alcohol. They so saw no point in staying behind after the last hotel guests had finally retired to bed, to sit there nursing a Coke or a J2O into the small hours, when, quite frankly, all most of wanted to do was to get home, shower and retire to bed.”
But what about in workplaces where drink is always on hand, but where indulging oneself with the odd glass or two of beer or wine (or a quick short when no one’s looking!) is strictly forbidden? Are specific rules about not drinking on the job adhered to, or is it simply inevitable that some staff will break the rules, particularly when the pressure is on?
“Yes, I broke the rules and enjoyed the occasional secret drink when I worked in a bar on the Seafront. Everyone did. The whole bar staff team, I mean,” explains 24-year-old Tyler, a former barman at a Brighton hotel. “My boss knew I was doing it but there were so many weddings, corporate events, and other functions booked in for the summer that he turned a blind eye to what my colleagues and I were up to (supposedly ‘behind his back’), as he needed us, at least until the end of the summer season.
“Looking back now, I regret it. I abused my position, and exploited the fact that my manager was in an impossible situation. I mean, if I’d worked in a shop, factory, hospital or some other kind of workplace, and I regularly drew from the stock by taking things home, I’d deservedly get the sack. I’d probably be taken to court, actually. So why should bar staff be allowed to get away with drinking on the job, when the beer, wine and spirits belongs one hundred per cent to the hotel, or the overseeing hotel chain?”
Does alcohol in the workplace ‘create’ new drinkers?
Interestingly, before Tyler worked in the Brighton hotel, he (and some of his work colleagues) didn’t drink at all, which somewhat flies in the face of the widely held belief that the pub and restaurant industry “definitely” attracts people who have a high alcohol intake from the outset.
Perhaps the availability of alcohol – coupled with the rigours of a demanding working environment – results in inevitable alcohol consumption (be that occasional or extensive). Or maybe the pressure to fit in at work proves too much for some non-drinkers, and they eventually cave in to the urging of their colleagues (or even their boss) to be ‘one of the lads’ or ‘one of the girls’.
Note: All names have been changed