Last Updated on February 3, 2021
Drinking alcohol on the job might sound glamorous, making you feel like a Mad Men ad executive during the 1960s. But if you dream of career success, you may want to think twice about when you drink, and how much.
1 in 6 American workers is impacted by alcohol use in the workplace—whether that means drinking on a lunch break with coworkers, or coming into work hungover from the night before. Many employers are increasingly concerned about alcohol use and workers’ productivity, attendance, and mental health.
Whether on or off the job, heavy drinking can negatively impact your career, including your performance and attendance at work. Below, we’ll discuss the effects of alcohol abuse in the workplace, how drinking might be holding you back from career success, and what you can do about it.
Alcohol Use and Job Performance
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that problem drinking cost the U.S. economy almost a quarter trillion dollars in 2010. A full 72 percent of this was due to lost productivity in the workforce. An estimated 15 percent of the U.S. workforce has drunk alcohol before work or during the workday, worked under the influence of alcohol, or come to work with a hangover.
Drinking on or off the job can negatively impact your job performance in numerous ways. Alcohol influences our decision-making capabilities and reduces our inhibitions. As a result, we may say or do things we’d normally deem inappropriate in the workplace. This unprofessional behavior can negatively impact your relationships with coworkers, or even cost your business customers.
Additionally, drinking alcohol impairs your motor skills and coordination, increasing the risk of slips, trips, and falls. Even if you drank the night before, there is a link between alcohol and insomnia, which can also affect your attention and dexterity. This is especially dangerous in work environments with heavy machinery, such as factories or construction sites.
Whether or not your drinking behaviors cause an accident at work, it’s also possible to lose your job if your employer senses you are impaired, and could potentially endanger others.
Alcohol Use and Work Attendance
Excessive alcohol use also negatively impacts work attendance. According to studies, a person’s likelihood of missing work increases with the frequency of heavy drinking. This is especially true if they perceive that their coworkers and supervisors support this behavior. Many people also miss work to care for a family member who struggles with alcohol.
Even occasional binge drinking keeps employees from coming into the office. While taking one or two sick days a year to nurse a hangover may not seem like a big deal, spread over the entire workforce this can really add up.
Many employers notice this, and are attentive to how often and why their employees call out sick. According to one survey, nearly half of supervisors were less likely to promote an employee who took too many sick days. Being hungover from frequent binge drinking, or struggling with an alcohol use disorder can therefore make it harder to climb the company ladder.
Signs That Alcohol Use Is Impacting Your Career
In summary, your alcohol use may be holding you back from career success if you:
- Are frequently late or absent from work due to alcohol consumption
- Don’t get enough sleep, or cannot focus because of your drinking
- Behave erratically or inappropriately on the job due to the effects of alcohol
- Are less productive because you are hungover
- Get defensive when your coworkers or supervisors approach you about your drinking
Any of these are reasons a person might be passed over for a promotion, or even lose a job.
Getting Help for Problem Drinking
Many career-driven individuals are afraid to admit they have a drinking problem because they fear retaliation. Seeking treatment for alcohol abuse could mean taking medical leave from work. This may require you to disclose sensitive mental health information to your employer.
Under United States law, you are entitled to take up to 12 weeks medical leave for substance abuse and mental health treatment, if the program is approved by your health provider. However, it’s also true that some companies have provisions that allow them to fire you or take disciplinary action if you have an alcohol addiction.
While it’s possible to contest this, there are now more discrete options, including treatment via telehealth. Online alcohol treatment is flexible to your schedule, and can be done privately, from anywhere. This allows you to get the help you need without disrupting your work schedule.
Ria Health’s program is one option that gives you expert medical support, online coaching, anti-craving medications, and much more. All of this 100 percent through your smartphone.