The CA calling for less alcohol in workplaces
Alan Tse CA left a heavy-drinking workplace to found non-alcoholic wine company Altina. With drinking levels on the rise since the pandemic, he hopes more people consider going dry this July.
- In a new job, Alan Tse CA found his drinking levels spiralling out of control.
- He is now the co-founder of non-alcoholic wine company Altina.
- Tse would like to see more leaders recognising alcohol in their diversity and inclusion policies, and more workplaces going alcohol free.
Alan Tse CA rarely drank, until he joined the public sector as a graduate. He describes his drinking then as harmless: a glass or two at the occasional networking event; a wine with colleagues over a weekly or fortnightly board game.
However, when he jumped ship to a financial advisory company, there was a distinct change in his drinking patterns.
“The company I worked for was never aggressive around drinking, but there was this framework where you were expected to drink,” he says. “Winning a contract, welcoming new staff, farewelling staff, losing a contract – you drink.
“When the alcohol is free, there is no barrier to saying no,” Tse adds. “At one stage, I was drinking almost every night with colleagues, friends or family. Once you are in a rhythm, it is hard to stop.”
After a few embarrassing incidents returning home sick after a night on the booze, Tse called time on drinking in and around the workplace. His wife had already stopped for health reasons, and in 2018 the two joined forces to found non-alcoholic wine company Altina.
Altina uses natural and Australian native ingredients in its ‘sansgria’, rosé and white wines. No sugar is added, unlike in other non-alcoholic wines on the market.
Call for leaders to change drinking culture
In Tse’s experience, the culture around drinking in the workplace is set by leaders. He would like to see more leaders recognising alcohol in their diversity and inclusion policies, and more workplaces going alcohol free.
“A managing partner of an accounting firm recently asked me for advice on how to normalise non-drinking in his workplace,” says Tse. “The partner explained that in his day, drinking to excess was a badge of honour. He understood the younger generation of today is not interested in doing that and that things had to change.
“Some HR people say to me: ‘Most of our staff drink, why would we want non-alcoholic wine?’ And I say: ‘What about those who are not part of the majority? Do they really appreciate soft drink and juice when you are spending money on craft beers and good wine? It’s about fostering a more inclusive workplace’.
“Government agencies have zero-alcohol-in-the-workplace policies, and so do the consultancies serving them,” Tse adds.
“In the private sector, I know a handful of companies that have a zero alcohol policy, and over time there will be more. It is up to leaders to set the parameters.”
Pandemic fuels drinking habits
With recent research showing drinking increased during COVID-19 lockdowns, now is as good a time as ever for organisations to looks at ways to cut back on alcohol consumption at work events, Tse says.
Ahead of the first Level 4 lockdown in 2020, the New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council reported some liquor stores saw a 1800% spike in daily sales. The Health Promotion Agency surveyed drinkers about their alcohol use and found 22% of Māori drinkers, 20% of Pasifika drinkers and 19% of 18-24 year-olds increased their consumption in Level 4 lockdown as a way to relax or switch off, deal with stress and cope with boredom.
The Australian Alcohol and Drug Foundation also found Australians are drinking 25% more than they did before the pandemic, with medical experts concerned ‘self-medicating’ habits formed during the pandemic could become entrenched.
Tse says initiatives such as Dry July – a fundraising campaign in Australia and New Zealand aimed at challenging social drinkers to change their habits for a month – offer great incentives for workplaces to cut back on alcohol. He has watched an increasing number of corporate teams participate in Dry July over the past few years and would like to see more companies get involved and help raise money for people affected by cancer.
“When I stopped drinking, people at work asked what was wrong and if I was sick,” he says. “Those days still exist but drinking culture is slowly changing. More individuals are feeling empowered to say they don’t feel like drinking in social settings.
“More individuals are feeling empowered to say they don’t feel like drinking in social settings.”
“People may still drink alcohol, but they may not do it at a work function,” he says, “or they might have one glass of wine or beer, before switching to something non-alcoholic.”
Alan Tse’s five tips for cutting down on alcohol
1. Keep track
Keep a journal to record your alcohol intake over a few weeks and months. This could reveal habits you may want to break that motivate you to re-evaluate your relationship with alcohol.
2. Plan ahead
We have all gone out and said, “I’m only going to have one” and ended up having more. If this is happening to you regularly, schedule an Uber before going out. A dedicated time to go home will motivate you to leave when you originally planned to.
3. Substitute your drinks
While water isn’t the most appealing alternative, it is a great substitute if there are no non-alcoholic alternatives on hand. Or, pick one day a week where you indulge in a non-alcoholic alternative.
4. Obey the ‘one less’ rule
When you want a drink, think about one thing you could do instead that would make you feel better. This could include exercising, preparing a healthy meal, or calling a friend.
5. Meet friends sans alcohol
Plan alcohol-free outings with friends. Go for a hike, play golf, meet at a cafe instead of a restaurant, or join a book club. Time with friends can still be enjoyable without alcohol.
Find out more:
Organisations wanting to sign up for Dry July can create a team at dryjuly.com or dryjuly.co.nz.