You may have spotted in the news this week that employers are being ‘urged’ to ban alcohol at office parties to prevent workplace misconduct and protect employee wellbeing. Shining a light on employee wellbeing and highlighting the harmful effects of alcohol is a positive, however it would be remis not to explore why the role of alcohol in office culture exists in the first place, and what else we can do to promote better wellness in the workplace.
While the overconsumption of alcohol at office parties can lead to serious workplace regret, it is worth reminding ourselves that alcohol also helps serve the purpose of helping colleagues to connect and boosting staff morale.
Connecting with colleagues is essential for a healthy workplace environment. According to a survey by Totaljobs, 70% of UK workers feel that having colleagues they connect with is essential for job satisfaction. Additionally, 37% of respondents stated that workplace friendships made them feel more motivated and productive.
Chief Science Officer at GABA Labs, Professor David Nutt says: ‘Whether in your work life or your personal life, the human desire for connection and community runs deep within our DNA and alcohol can certainly facilitate connection with others in certain situations. However, it's important to recognise that these effects come with risks and should be used in moderation and with caution.
While a couple of drinks at the office Christmas party or after work with colleagues may provide a temporary boost to our mood and socialisation, they can also have negative consequences on our health, relationships, and overall wellbeing.
We know that social connection is essential to the human condition, and we know that alcohol plays a part in that role. But alcohol is an old technology, with the power to do enormous harm, and this is why GABA Labs exists – to offer safer and healthier alternatives that allow us to connect and enhance our socialising experiences.”
According to a survey by Totaljobs, over a quarter of UK workers (28%) have regretted their behaviour at a work-related social event due to overconsumption of alcohol. While stats by Alcohol Change UK found that one in five UK workers (20%) have been drunk at work at least once in the past year.
Professor David Nutt adds: “As a scientist and researcher, I believe that there are safer and healthier ways to connect and elevate our experiences. At GABA Labs, we are exploring the fascinating workings of the GABA nerve, which plays a crucial role in regulating our moods and behaviours. By understanding how this system functions, we hope to develop new approaches to enhance our social and emotional connections without the use of harmful substances.
The discovery that ‘GABA’ is at the heart of the ‘good’ drinking experience has been instrumental to our work. Our team of scientists and neuroscientists at GABA Labs have pioneered a range of functional spirits which, thanks to a proprietary bled of botanical ingredients come together to stimulate GABA in the brain, meaning social drinkers can come together and connect without any of the downsides associated with alcohol.
Though I feel as a society that we are moving in the right direction in challenging how much alcohol we drink and how widely acceptable a potentially harmful substance has become; I wonder if rather than banning alcohol altogether, bosses might consider educating staff around and encouraging responsible drinking.
Alternatively, employers could choose to provide alternative bonding activities that don't involve alcohol. For example, team-building activities, volunteering, or even just offering a designated space for socialising can help foster workplace connections.”
While the recent calls for bosses to ban alcohol at office parties are understandable, it is important to consider the role that alcohol can play in helping colleagues to connect and in boosting staff morale, and to ensure we are offering and exploring alternative ways to promote social connections in the workplace.