Map your steps - Healthy Workplaces
These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to reflect the unique needs of each workplace.
The key steps involved in developing and delivering a workplace program to prevent alcohol and drug related harms are provided below as a useful starting point for developing your Community Action Plan and informing your approach.
These steps provide an indicative guide; it is important to tailor your approach to reflect the unique needs of each workplace, as a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach will not work.
A key first step for LDATs is to identify workplaces in the community to participate in the Healthy Workplaces activity.
It is important to prioritise high risk industries and occupations and workplaces where alcohol is readily available. See Section 1b: Which target audience should the Healthy Workplaces activity focus on?
In addition to identifying high risk industries and occupations, LDATs may identify other workplaces in their local community that would benefit from programs to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms. Workplaces that have the following characteristics may be suitable organisations:
- Increased access to alcohol
- A culture that supports risky or heavy drinking
- Located in an area with a high density of alcohol outlets
- Employs a large number of staff, and therefore has the potential to reach a large number of people
- A track record of tackling workplace health and safety issues, with opportunities to strengthen and build on previous activity
- Bold and proactive leaders, who may be open to tackling a complex issue such as the prevention of alcohol and drug harms
- High risk industries and occupations. See Planning for guidance on which target audiences the Healthy Workplaces activity should focus on.
Consult with your community and partners to help your group develop a comprehensive picture of the local organisations and workforce. It will also help you to identify potential workplace participants, other local needs and what already exists within the community that can be strengthened and built upon.
Engaging with workplaces
A critical role of an LDAT is to engage with workplaces to put the harms from alcohol and other drugs on their agenda, and to motivate and support workplaces to take action.
There are many factors that may impact on the receptivity of workplaces to alcohol and other drug interventions including: sales/revenue; profitability; brand; marketing; staffing issues; technology; legal obligations; and, the activity and expectations of their partners, shareholders, competitors, supply chain and customers, to name a few. It is important for LDATs to be aware of the broader context that workplaces operate within and to frame the issue accordingly.
Tips for engaging workplaces
- Engage workplace leaders: Leadership engagement is critical to the success of workplace health interventions, and it is often the first key challenge facing LDATs. Leaders include people such as owners, chief executive officers, board members, senior managers, union leaders, and informal leaders. Engagement can take forms such as understanding, support, commitment, buy-in, endorsement and participation. Gaining commitment and support of senior personnel helps to:
– Mobilise key stakeholders and decision-makers
– Obtain the necessary permissions, resources and support for the (potentially disruptive) intervention
– Demonstrate the organisation’s commitment and positively influence employee support and participation
– Integrate the workplace health intervention into the organisation’s business goals, values and strategy.1
Meet face-to-face with workplace leaders if you can, rather than just sending out information via email.
- Answer the question ‘What’s in it for me?’ for the workplace: Find the hook for potential workplace partners; this may include promoting worker wellbeing, fulfilling duty of care obligations and complying with workplace health and safety (WHS) legislation, or reducing accidents and injuries. You might find these answers on their website, in strategy or annual report documents, or through direct discussions with staff from various parts of the organisations you are targeting.
- Promote the benefits: When discussing AOD harm prevention with a workplace, promote the benefits to employees, their families, the organisation and broader community.
- Account for the complexity of the issue: Be mindful of the complexity of the issue; there is no single reason for risky alcohol use, no single alcohol problem and no single effective response. Many individual, community and workplace factors influence high risk alcohol and other drugs use. Each organisation and site will need a response tailored to their unique needs and which avoids stigmatisation.
Supporting workplaces to undertake a self-assessment
Support workplaces to undertake a self-assessment to understand what the workplace is currently doing to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms.
A self-assessment will provide the workplace with a baseline of current practice from which progress can be monitored, and help to identify strengths, gaps and potential areas for action.
Self-assessments (similar to an ‘environmental scan’ or ‘gap analysis’) should identify current policy and practice across four key action areas:
- Culture: positive and supportive leadership, policies and culture
- Physical work environment: a healthy physical working environment
- Personal health resources: information and resources to support workers
- Community connections: partnerships and opportunities in the community.2,3
An example framework for assessing a workplace’s current status is:
- Actions that the organisation has taken (progress to date) to prevent alcohol and drug harms
- Evidence of progress
- Further actions required
- Person responsible
The results of the workplace self-assessment will be used to develop a customised approach to preventing alcohol and drug-related harms that reflects the unique needs of the organisation.
Supporting workplaces to take action
LDATs have a key role in supporting workplaces to take action using a ‘whole of workplace’ approach to preventing alcohol and drug-related harms. This involves taking action at each of the four key action areas: culture, physical work environment, personal health resources and community connections.
Actions that workplaces can take to prevent alcohol and drug-related harms will be informed by the results of their workplace self-assessment.
Key action area
The organisational culture promotes responsible alcohol consumption through supportive leadership, employee participation and shared decision making.
Policies are in place to support responsible alcohol consumption (responsible consumption is considered to be within the recommended number of standard drinks as per NHMRC guidelines.
These should be consistent with and reference other relevant policies. E.g. Occupational Health and Safety and Mental Health and Wellbeing.
An effective policy should:
- Outline clear responsibilities with regard to when it is considered appropriate and not appropriate to consume alcohol in relation to work
- Outline provisions for those having difficulties with alcohol (e.g. Employee Assistance Programs, online, telephone or face-to-face support such as Counselling Online, Lifeline, SANE Australia, Directline)
- Be developed in consultation with employees
- Be promoted to all employees (e.g. through induction to ensure that new employees are aware of the policy and procedures in relation to alcohol within the workplace)
- Be implemented across the organisation
- Be regularly monitored and reviewed.
When alcohol is provided, employees and managers are jointly involved in encouraging responsible consumption.
- Working together to develop ideas for responsible alcohol consumption
- Ensuring staff inductions include information on how appropriate alcohol consumption is being encouraged and promoted
- Identifying ways to address the factors that influence inappropriate alcohol use in the workplace.Management supports employees by:
- Ensuring responsible consumption is encouraged
- Promoting key messages through forums and meetings
- Ensuring that individuals’ choices to drink or not drink are respected and not stigmatised.
When providing alcohol, the workplace provides a positive work environment that promotes responsible consumption.
- The workplace culture does not encourage drinking above the recommended number of standard drinks
- All levels of management and employees support the responsible consumption of alcohol and actively model appropriate behaviours
- The workplace avoids encouraging consumption as part of events, celebrations, awards, gifts, fundraising etc.Physical work environment
The physical workplace environment promotes responsible alcohol consumption
The workplace addresses the physical environment where it can influence harmful alcohol consumption.
- Safety measures are implemented at workplace events (functions and work meetings including meetings with clients) in regard to alcohol provision.
- For example:
- Food and drink provision (e.g. responsible service of alcohol, serving food at events, providing low and no alcohol options and free water, appropriate pricing, restricting availability and accessibility of alcohol, no drink promotions or other activities that support rapid consumption)
- Food and drink provision complies with relevant state and territory policies and guidance (for example, the Healthy Choices Healthy Eating Policy and Catering Guide for Workplaces in Victoria: health.vic.gov.au/public- health/preventive-health/nutrition)
- Safe transport (e.g. providing information about public transport options, discounts for designated drivers, key or designated driver register, free calls for taxis)
- Consideration of personal safety for employees (e.g. individuals leaving venue alone).
Personal health resources
Resources, information and opportunities are provided to increase knowledge and skills for responsible alcohol consumption. Relevant information about responsible alcohol consumption (e.g. standard drinks, NHMRC Alcohol Guidelines) and relevant workplace policies are accessible in suitable locations (e.g. noticeboards), relevant formats (e.g. multiple languages) and at suitable times (e.g. recruitment and induction).
Local support services are promoted to employees and their families, and they are encouraged to access these services.Opportunities for education and skill development to promote responsible alcohol consumption are provided for employees, where possible.
- What is considered harmful alcohol consumption and the effects of alcohol on health, safety and work performance, and how to manage alcohol consumption
- Manager specific training, such as how to identify inappropriate alcohol use and how to manage alcohol issues in the workplace.
- The workplace engages with the wider community to support responsible alcohol consumption
- Promote participation in sporting organisations that are Good Sports accredited (goodsports.com.au).
- The organisation does not engage in sponsorship, marketing or advertising of food and drinks that are inconsistent with the Healthy Food Charter.
- The workplace and workforce participate in awareness raising events consistent with policies to support responsible alcohol consumption.
For example, Febfast (febfast.org.au) and Dry July (dryjuly.com).
- When external venues and catering organisations provide food and drink for functions outside the workplace, they are encouraged to align with the workplace alcohol policy.
Taking action to prevent harm from other drugs is, over time, shifting from a limited response which focuses on the identification and referral to treatment of impaired or drug dependent workers, to a broader primary prevention approach.
Examples of workplace action to address other drug use may include:
- Education and training, e.g. drug education to improve the drug-related health and safety attitudes and awareness of workers
- Brief interventions, e.g. stress management programs
- Counselling and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs)
- Promotion and increased access to local support services and other health and social service providers
- Development of a drug policy (often created as a broader ‘Alcohol and Drug Policy’ by workplaces). Policies should be consistent with and reference other related workplace policies (e.g. Occupational Health and Safety) and relevant legislation. 4,5
Details about how the program will be managed and what processes will be required to deliver the workplace program also need to be considered.
- What is the specific legislation for the workplace industry in relation to alcohol and other drug consumption? The onus is on the workplace to be aware of and consider this when taking action.
- Who will provide oversight of the program? What problems can occur and how can they be mitigated?
- How will you support the workplaces involved?
- What support does your group need?
Policy templates and resources:
Linking workplaces to existing programs, information and community services
LDATs have a key role in connecting workplaces to existing programs, information and community services that will meet their unique needs as identified in the workplace self-assessment.
This may include:
- Existing evidence-based activities
- Training and upskilling opportunities for workplaces, such as training on how to manage alcohol and other drug issues in the workplace
- Expert guest speakers, sourced from local networks or peak bodies
- Evidence-based information
- Local health care services such as providers of support, treatment and counselling services, e.g. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs).
LDATs should not deliver activities unless the organisations in their team have the appropriate expertise. In situations where they don’t have the required expertise, the primary role of
LDATs should be to support ‘suitably qualified’ organisations to deliver quality activities.
Supporting workplaces with communication
Support workplaces with communication by:
- Helping them to develop a communication strategy to engage all staff, as workplace AOD strategies are more effective if strategies are developed and implemented in consultation with staff
- Supporting the delivery of the selected Healthy Workplaces activity, such as developing promotional materials and promoting activities.
- Providing a sounding board on how to frame and communicate different messages or activities
- Working with the workplace to promote the benefits of their selected healthy workplaces activity to individual workers/ family members/community.
Communication around AOD harms and related workplace activity is important, and if done poorly, may lead to people being misinformed or contribute to poor workplace morale. Employers often fear that clients/customers and the public will see the introduction of an AOD harm reduction program as evidence that the workplace has an ‘alcohol and drug problem’ to be dealt with, while the employees may see it as the employer regarding them as a person dependent on alcohol or other drugs and as a vehicle for introducing drug testing. LDATs can overcome this by reframing strategies as an employee and organisational wellbeing program that aims to create a workplace culture of health and wellness that benefits all.
In addition to framing alcohol and drug strategies with a health and wellbeing focus, communicating the purpose and benefits of activities is also important and can have a significant impact on workplace engagement and support.
Benefits of taking action to create healthy workplaces include:
- Improved health and wellbeing of employees Safer working environment with decreased accidents, injuries and fatalities
- A workplace culture that promotes safe and responsible alcohol use and minimises alcohol-related harm
- Compliance with workplace health and safety (WHS) and related legislation, such as specific legislation around mine safety
- Increased staff performance and productivity
- Reduced absenteeism
- Reduced presenteeism
- Decreased staff turnover and early retirement
- Reduced operating, reputational and indirect costs
- Improved work relations and staff morale.
Measuring success and reporting
Measure and report on the success of your
Healthy Workplaces activity. This can be done by:
- Collecting measures of success with the workplaces you are engaging with
- Reporting on your success, acquitting your funds and considering other activities you can undertake to reduce the harms from alcohol and other drugs in the workplace.
- VicHealth 2013, Creating healthy workplaces: Early insights from VicHealth pilot projects, Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne, Australia.
- WHO, 2010, Healthy workplaces: a model for action, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland.
- State of Victoria, 2018, Healthy workplaces framework, (Accessed February 2019)
- Pidd, K, Berry JG, Harrison JE, Roche AM, Driscoll TR, Newson RS. 2006. Alcohol and work: patterns of use, workplace culture and safety. Injury Research and Statistics Series Number 28. (AIHW cat no. INJCAT 82) Adelaide: AIHW.
- VicHealth 2012, Reducing alcohol-related harm in the workplace (An evidence review: summary report), Victorian Health Promotion Foundation, Melbourne, Australia.