Two-fifths of young workers say avoiding alcohol would stop them fitting in at work



Nearly half of private sector employees feel drinking is an important part of workplace culture, think tank finds

Drinking alcohol with colleagues is regarded as a ‘rite of passage’ and ‘social glue’ by 40 per cent of young workers, according to a new report from think tank Demos.

More than two-fifths (43 per cent) of young workers (those aged between 18 and 34) surveyed for the report, Youth Drinking in Transition, said they believed that not drinking alcohol was a barrier to social integration at work.

Nearly half (44 per cent) of those surveyed said they drink with colleagues, and a further 10 per cent said they drink alcohol with clients – with some expressing concern about their career progression if they abstained. A quarter admitted to experiencing pressure from colleagues to drink.

Ian Wybron, senior researcher at Demos, said: “Harmful drinking is on the decline among young adults… [but] alcohol remains the defining social glue for many young adults, with non-drinkers effectively excluded in many circles.”

Demos’ report uncovered significant differences in the perception of the importance of alcohol to working culture between industries and sectors. Almost half (47 per cent) of private sector workers said they felt the drinking culture is important at work, compared with just 28 per cent of those in the public sector.

In comparison, just 34 per cent of young workers in the ICT sector, and 33 per cent of those working in financial services, considered themselves to be heavy drinkers.

Excessive alcohol consumption is a significant cost to employers. Statistics from the Department of Health suggest that an average organisation that employs 200 staff will lose £37,634 per year because of alcohol’s impact on health and work.

Nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of respondents to Demos’ survey said they performed less effectively at work because of alcohol; a further 21 per cent said they had gone to work with a hangover in the last month; and 9 per cent had been under the influence of alcohol in the workplace within the last month.

“Tackling excessive drinking cultures where they exist head-on, as well as encouraging more responsible norms and precedents at different life stages, is vital to building a more responsible drinking culture,” said Wybron.

“Excessive young drinkers commonly think that they will grow out of harmful drinking as they hit more ‘adult’ life stages. But it is clear that while many will indeed move on, for others dangerous precedents are set that are much harder to shift.”

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