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How alcohol affects the workplace

Problem drinking can impact on workplace safety, productivity and employee wellbeing, and even on a business’ reputation and its customers.

People who work have a higher rate of problem drinking than the general population. It's estimated around 20% of adult full-time workers are problem drinkers, compared to around 15% of the overall adult population.

Drinking, even if it happens after-hours, can have an effect in wide ranging ways, including:

  • accidents and injuries
  • workplace fatalities
  • reduced workplace performance/productivity
  • poor work relations/morale
  • lateness or absenteeism
  • decreased performance – referred to as ‘presenteeism’
  • higher employee turnover
  • impact on colleagues, employee relations and company reputation/competitive strength.

And that costs. The approximate price New Zealand businesses paid for alcohol-related lost productivity is estimated at around $500 million each year.

Read more: Australia’s VicHealth has a report into reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace.

Working under the influence

In the Alcohol Use 2012/13 New Zealand Health Survey, 8.8% of men and 4.6% of women reported working at least once in the past year while under the influence of alcohol.

  • Fewer drinkers (aged 16-64 years) overall reported having worked in the past 12 months while feeling under the influence of alcohol in 2012/13 (7.6%) than in 2007/08 (11%).
  • Of all drinkers, 4.3% of men and 2% of women reported operating machinery while under the influence of alcohol at least once in the past year.
  • Also, 4% of men and 2.5% of women reported they had taken time off work or school because of drinking alcohol. A similar proportion, 3% of men and 2.2% of women, said drinking alcohol had impacted on their work, studies or ability to get a job.

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