Long ago, in the 80s and 90s before becoming self-employed, I worked for Shell and the BBC. Two very different organisations. Two different cultures. What they shared, however, was that they both had a workplace bar. The bars had the equivalent of the pub landlord, serving booze at lunchtime and after work, propped up by the usual suspects – not me, I hasten to add.
If you’re wondering what led me to reflect on the prevalence of alcohol in my professional life, it was hearing Lauren Booker from Alcohol Change UK speak at this year’s Health and Wellbeing at Work conference held at the NEC, Birmingham. Lauren makes a convincing argument for why our relationship with alcohol needs to be seen as a workplace wellbeing issue in her article, ‘Alcohol at work – a heady cocktail’.
Sharing insights into how the pandemic and lockdown changed our drinking culture; she explains how the most significant change perhaps was that drinking at work – albeit virtually – became normalised. The cost is reflected in the 17 million sick days1 taken each year due to excessive drinking. But the cost, as we well know, is far deeper than how it is hits us in the pocket. Calling alcohol, ‘the nation’s favourite coping strategy’, it’s timely that Lauren challenges us to rethink our relationship with it in the month that Alcohol Change UK hold its annual awareness week.
I had the pleasure of talking to Gloria Howard for ‘My workplace’ about how she has devoted her life to therapeutic endeavours – from working with street children in Columbia to offering low-cost intensive retreats in Wales for burnt out frontline workers. As she approaches retirement, Gloria reflects on what this means to her. I found her to be an inspirational elder, and she has doubtless touched the lives of many.
In the final part of ‘Talking menopause’, Helen Kewell considers how therapists can navigate this life transition, and how we can support our clients too. Given that research suggests that 62% of BACP members are likely to be menopausal, there’s a clear need to open up this topic further as it’s clearly a workplace wellbeing issue for counselling professionals.
And finally, The Wrong Story is written by Lisa Jenner, a former therapist and organisational consultant, who brings her wealth of experience to write a work of fiction about a therapist and her clients. I read it on holiday and it’s a page turner! I talk to Lisa about how her novel is making therapy more accessible by bringing it to a wider audience. There are parallels with workplace counselling she tells me – as we see the clients that would never appear in private practice - because of cost and other blocks to accessing our services. There are many ways of serving our profession and our future clients and, I think, The Wrong Story is certainly one of them. I hope you enjoy this issue.
Editor, BACP Workplace