How to speak to your employer about being more sober-friendly

How to speak to your employer about being more sober-friendly

Ah – the festive period. No, not ‘that’ period, I’m talking about the good ole’ holidays where over-consumption is encouraged. Typical every-day weather chat has been replaced, the only talk of rain is a Champagne shower. With every work Teams call comes the growing mention of parties, drinking and booze.

Finishing early to get to the pub quicker or have more time drinking seems to become an employee benefit. Oh yay, can’t wait for that extra hydration…

“I won’t be drinking” or “I have decided not to drink” do not seem to be statements that suggest confidence and certainty in the decision. They seem to suggest an opportunity to be bartered with, unless your pregnant or on medication. With these statements come the question of…. “Why?”.

We could sit back and continue to dread every meeting, conversation or social occasion. It’s only till the New Year, right? Or we could share our thoughts and try to encourage our employer to create more inclusivity.

How can we navigate a conversation with our employer about being more sober friendly?

Identify who the best team/person would be to reach out to. I would begin building up the confidence by speaking to colleagues who I have a good relationship with and working my way up. Outside of direct managers and colleagues, HR / Talent and Employee focused teams are usually a good starting point. Most companies will have a focus on inclusion and employee experience as a priority and are open to hear and learn.

Try not to be afraid to speak up about sobriety if you are generally open about it to others. Colleagues will likely ask questions, so I would tell them that I’ve made this decision and do not feel the need to say more. If questions are fired, I’d point out that their favourite drinks brand has likely got non-alcoholic alternatives, so the sober movement is nothing new. If talking about it in a group environment isn’t an option, then try reaching out to a colleague or manager that you trust and ask for their advice. It's very likely that having at least one person to confide in will take away some of the mounting pressure.

Share some ideas with the relevant individuals that you have those conversations with. The company has likely navigated social events this way for years and they are not sure how to offer more inclusivity or may be unaware that this is excluding some employees. It is unlikely that they will be able to alter the plans for this year entirely, but I’d start by recommending that they take steps to being more inclusive. The first step could be to alter the language used when planning events and trying to take the focus away from purely drinking. Sober people would feel a lot more accepted if drinking wasn’t the only thing on the menu.

Change might not be immediate, but I would mention that I’ve noticed that work parties and social meet-ups are often focused heavily on drinking alcohol. As not everyone at the company drinks alcohol, some social events could be focused on activities with the option of drinking should people want to. This makes it more inclusive as those who want to drink can make that choice, but those who don’t drink are still included and can enjoy the activity. This isn’t just a way to be more sober-friendly but would also offer a much better experience to those in recovery, who are actively avoiding places like Pubs, Clubs and Bars. Oh and another thing – stop giving just alcohol as prizes – nothing says “sobriety isn’t welcome here” like a bottle of prosecco for being employee of the month.

Ask the company to consider raising awareness or providing resources on alcohol. If there is a Diversity & Inclusion, Employee Wellbeing or HR team at the company then sharing insight around wellbeing and improving wellbeing benefits is often one of their priorities. It doesn’t have to be a mandatory meeting, they could share this within e-mail communications. With the festive period looming, it is a topic that will be more relevant than ever, especially with the increase in TV advertisement around alcohol. Building awareness and starting conversations within the workplace can have a hugely positive impact. Employee wellbeing needs to be ever-changing and alcohol addiction and sobriety aren’t new, they are surrounded by so much stigma that often those experiencing it stay silent.

No matter your reason for choosing sobriety, navigating this festive period is going to present challenges. Take a moment to remember why you are here. Giving into peer pressure will negatively impact your life, but you choosing to not drink won’t negatively impact theirs.

We’ve got this sober girl society. Cheers to that.

By Lexy Carter

Lexy is a writer, speaker and Mental Health advocate. While she is new to sobriety, she has extensive experience navigating the stormy waters of stigma. Her realness is what makes her writing so relatable and she shares more about Sobriety, Mental Health, Neurodiversity & Addiction on her Insta @LexyTalks.

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