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Health & Wellbeing
Employment & HR

Dry January: Is alcohol-free the new norm?

Primed Team
9 January 2024 4 minutes

There’s been a growing trend, particularly amongst the younger generation of opting for alcohol free or low alcohol beverages, with recent research by the Portman Group suggesting that 44% of 18-24 year olds are now regularly opting for ‘sober’ alternatives.

And it’s not just young people, in general more adults in the UK are exploring alcohol free options, with more than 70% of UK adults saying they consume alcohol free drinks as a substitute for alcohol. The chances are there are people in your business (maybe even you!) who are ‘sober curious’, exploring a reduction in alcohol consumption or cutting it out completely.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the work, and as January marks ‘Dry January’, it’s a good time to consider the culture around alcohol in the workplace.

Progressive employers are already recognising a shift in attitude towards alcohol and taking steps to create a more inclusive environment where alcohol isn’t at the centre.

 

Inclusivity

Firstly, let’s talk about inclusivity. There are many different reasons people may choose not to drink; it could be for health reasons, alcoholism in the family, pregnancy or trying for a family to religious reasons. Either way the reason for not drinking can be deeply personal.

People want to feel included and alcohol can often be a divisive tool. Many businesses use alcohol as a ‘reward’ – a bottle of wine at Christmas, Champagne to celebrate milestones, or going out for work drinks. Whilst they can be lovely gestures, consider what else you can offer as a reward, tickets or vouchers for a day out or an early finish could be just as rewarding.

Whether we recognise it or not, events and socialising often centre around alcohol. Recently there’s been a rise in no-booze events, for example booze free night club evenings for people who love music and dancing but don’t want to be around the booze-culture.

When it comes to organising work events and team socials, what else could you do instead of going for an afterwork drink? If you’re putting on an event, can you arrange for a better selection of non-alcohol drink alternatives beyond the usual water / lemonade / coke (think virgin cocktails) that are tasty to drink and can be served in glasses that look ‘inclusive’.

 

A shift in language and normalising not drinking

We’ve all been guilty of it, when people say they aren’t drinking, very often the automatic response is ‘oh, you can still have one’ or we respond in a negative way ‘I’m driving, sad face’.

We all play a role in normalising the choice not to drink and that begins with changing the language we use when it comes to alcohol. Just because people don’t want to have a drink, doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing and we shouldn’t respond like it’s a negative. We need to shift our mindset into supporting and accepting those who don’t want to drink.

Employers are in a unique position to drive change and lead the way when it comes to supporting sober or sober-curious employees by creating an inclusive environment which doesn’t revolve around alcohol.

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