Promotion and education are essential ingredients in communicating your alcohol policy and the measures you’re taking to manage and reduce alcohol-related harm.
Communication and education helps shift attitudes and behaviours related to drinking. This must start in the early stages of policy implementation and must be ongoing, as one-off communications aren’t enough.
If communication and education about harmful drinking and your workplace’s alcohol policy becomes part of employee training and education, it’s more likely to be sustainable in the long term.
It’s important to let your people know that your organisation isn’t trying to interfere with their private lives - that it's about helping them make healthy choices because it's the workplace culture to be healthy.
It’s also important people understand that ensuring no-one is impaired by alcohol is part of a business’ legal responsibility to create and maintain a safe working environment.
The minimal approach
At its most basic, communication around your alcohol work involves distributing a copy of the policy and briefing all employees on:
the policy rationale and why you’re focusing on alcohol
the policy’s details and procedures, roles and responsibilities and the consequences of breaching it
the help available for employees with drinking problems.
The ideal approach
Ideally, the communications and education strategy will be broad.
Include information to improve employees’ awareness and understanding of alcohol-related issues, such as:
the effects of alcohol and the symptoms of problem drinking, the impact of problem drinking on the workplace, the affected employee and their family
workplace factors that may contribute to an elevated risk of harm and self-assessment tools
where to get help, such as community resources, support organisations, self-help groups
laws and regulations related to alcohol in the workplace
stress management techniques
how support from colleagues and families can change patterns of behaviour.
Suggested communications activities
Here are some communication ideas you might put in place with your team.
Provide copies of the policy and any planned initiatives.
Discuss the alcohol policy and how you’re aiming to tackle alcohol issues at employee meetings and health and safety briefings.
Incorporate alcohol-related education material into workplace health promotion activities, and employee induction programmes.
Provide written material, such as fact sheets or leaflets, for people to read/take home.
Put up posters outlining the policy and initiatives on staff notice boards.
Find a short film or video about the impact of drinking on workplace safety or on wellbeing in general.
Include alcohol-harm information in ongoing occupational health and safety training.
Make sure your people know what treatment services are available – put up posters or display booklets and include information in training courses and induction programmes.
Train key staff
Managers, supervisors and other key staff have a very important role in the success of alcohol-related initiatives.
Effective training will help them understand the importance of their role and enable them to actively contribute to the programme's success.
How training material is developed and delivered will depend on your organisation’s resources and capability.
External consultants (such as Employee Assistance Programmes, EAPs) can help. However, training developed and delivered ‘in house’, which becomes a regular part of employee training, is more likely to be sustainable.
How training helps
Training aims to give key staff the skills and knowledge to:
Understand their own role in implementing the policy
identify changes in individual workplace performance and behaviour that may indicate alcohol-related problems
intervene if an employee is alcohol impaired at work
tell employees about the availability of rehabilitation, treatment or counselling services
refer employees to rehabilitation, treatment or counselling services
support rehabilitated employees, and monitor their performance when they return to work
assess the working environment and identify conditions that could be changed or improved to prevent or reduce alcohol-related harm in the workplace.
What to include in the training
Training material will depend on who is being trained but it should usually focus on:
understanding what affects people’s drinking
workplace policy rationale and how your workplace is planning to tackle alcohol issues
what the alcohol procedures are and how they will be implemented
identifying and addressing alcohol-related harm in the workplace – eg, poor work performance that seems to be linked to alcohol use, and dealing with intoxication at work
building communication, interviewing, and supervision skills.
Training should include practical information that improves awareness and understanding of alcohol-related issues, such as:
the effects of alcohol and how to notice the symptoms of problem drinking in employees
the impact of problem drinking on the workplace, on the affected employee and their family
workplace factors that may contribute to putting people at risk of alcohol harm
self-assessment tools and where to get help, such as community resources, support organisations, self-help groups, laws and regulations related to alcohol in the workplace
stress management techniques
the important role colleagues and families play in changing patterns of behaviour.
Adult learning principles
All training must be consistent with the principles of adult learning, so it must be:
autonomous and self-directed
based on a foundation of experiences and knowledge
relevant and practical, respectful of participants
provided for any new employees
adaptable to changing circumstances
regular and ongoing – regular supervisor training helps maintain interest in reducing alcohol-related harm and keeps the policy active.