As the new year unfolds, a significant number of Brits are embracing the challenge of Dry January, says Tina Woods.

Against the backdrop of workplace-related drinking norms like ‘Thirsty Thursday’ employers are finding themselves at a crucial juncture where they can play an integral role in supporting their employees’ personal efforts to cut down on alcohol intake.

Fostering open communication, cultivating a supportive company culture, and providing professional help through workplace benefits emerge as essential components in encouraging healthy drinking habits.

Crucially, businesses need to avoid one-size-fits-all approaches and instead implement ‘hyper-personalised’ strategies which acknowledge the uniqueness of circumstances, behaviours and habits of each individual.

The Responsibility of Employers

The workplace has a strong influence over employees’ level of drinking. A study by the charity Alcohol Change found that 27 percent of people report that workplace stress makes them drink more. Not only can workplace stress lead to increased drinking, but work-related success can as well. Another Alcohol Change study found that almost a quarter of people (23%) cited having more opportunities to socialise or celebrate with others as a reason for drinking more.

This drinking culture can have a significant negative impact on productivity, with 25 percent of employees stating that drugs or alcohol have affected them at work, and 23 percent saying they had experienced decreased productivity as a result.

Not only do employers have a remunerative reason to create workplace-led health interventions, but they also have a responsibility to create an environment that supports employees and encourages healthy habits, including self-care and drinking.

Fostering Open Communications

The cornerstone of any successful initiative aimed at supporting employees in their journey for healthier habits is open communication. Employers must create an environment where discussing personal goals, such as reducing alcohol intake, is not only acceptable but encouraged.

Initiatives like Dry January provide a natural conversation starter, allowing colleagues to share their intentions and challenges. Establishing open channels of communication reduces stigma, fostering a workplace where employees feel comfortable discussing their efforts to change their behaviour.

Employers can implement strategies like wellness programmes, workshops or webinars that provide information on the benefits of reducing alcohol consumption. These forums can include guest speakers, medical professionals, or even colleagues who have successfully navigated the challenges of cutting down on alcohol. By showcasing real-life experiences and offering a safe and open platform for questions or concerns, companies can demystify the process of behaviour change and create a sense of camaraderie among employees.

Developing a Supportive Company Culture

Beyond open communication, cultivating a supportive company culture is crucial for facilitating lasting behavioural changes. Employers should actively promote a culture that values and prioritises employee wellbeing, recognising that healthier and happier employees contribute to a more productive and engaged workforce.

One way to achieve this is by incorporating wellness initiatives into the workplace routine. For instance, companies can introduce activities such as yoga or mindfulness sessions, which not only promote overall wellbeing but also act as alternatives to after-work drinks. These initiatives create an inclusive, less pressurised environment that accommodates employees with various preferences and lifestyles.

Moreover, employers can consider revising company policies to accommodate healthier choices. This may involve re-evaluating the availability of alcohol in company-sponsored events and/or offering non-alcoholic alternatives. Celebrating achievements, both personal and professional, without relying on alcohol reinforces the idea that success and enjoyment can be achieved without the need for drinking.

Offering Professional Help

Recognising that individuals have different needs and challenges, employers must go beyond generic solutions and provide professional assistance tailored to each employee’s situation. This involves acknowledging that some employees may require more targeted interventions, such as counselling or specialised programmes to address underlying issues related to alcohol consumption.

Implementing employee assistance programmes is an effective way to offer confidential support to those seeking help. These programmes can connect employees with licensed professionals who can provide guidance on reducing alcohol intake, coping with stress, and managing work-life balance. Additionally, employers can collaborate with local health organisations or professionals to organise workshops or webinars addressing alcohol awareness, mental health, and overall wellbeing, and the impacts these factors can have in their professional and personal lives.

‘Hyper-Personalised’ Strategies

Adopting hyper-personalised strategies involves understanding the diverse factors influencing individuals’ behaviours, including reactions to stress, genetic predispositions, dietary preferences, and varying exercise levels.

Encouraging employees to reflect on their personal habits and preferences is a fundamental step in the hyper-personalisation process. Rather than imposing generic guidelines, employers can empower individuals to identify what will genuinely motivate them to change their behaviour. This might involve setting realistic goals, identifying triggers for excessive drinking, and establishing personalised strategies for coping with stress in social situations.

Normalising individual habits is an essential part of hyper-personalised strategies. By acknowledging and respecting the diversity among employees, companies can create an environment where individuals feel accepted and supported in their unique journeys towards healthier habits. This normalisation process involves celebrating small victories, acknowledging individual progress and encouraging peers and managers to refrain from judgement.

Employers can also leverage technology to facilitate hyper-personalisation, such as using corporate wellness apps that allow employees to track and manage their goals independently. These apps can provide personalised insights based on individual data, promoting a sense of autonomy and control over one’s wellbeing.

Dry January and Beyond  

As Dry January takes centre stage and a significant portion of the population expresses a desire to reduce alcohol consumption in 2024, businesses find themselves in a pivotal position to support their employees in this journey.

By fostering open communication, developing a supportive company culture, and offering professional help, employers can encourage healthy drinking habits and enhance the overall wellness of their workforce.

Embracing hyper-personalised strategies, tailored to each individual’s needs, is key to promoting lasting behavioural changes. Ultimately, by normalising diverse habits and acknowledging the uniqueness of each employee, businesses can contribute to a healthier, happier and more productive workplace.


By Tina Woods, CEO and Founder, Business for Health.