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Objectives: The aim of this study was to explore drinking culture and drinking situations that employers and employees encounter in the grey zone between work and leisure, and identify what might affect employees’ risky drinking behaviour.
Methods: We used eight focus groups to interview 61 core company informants from eight Norwegian companies (private and public sector) participating in the WIRUS – Workplace-based interventions preventing risky alcohol use and sick leave – project. The informants represented employers and employees with a diversity of roles at multiple organisational levels. The transcribed interviews were analysed by applying a phenomenological hermeneutical approach.
Results: The analysis revealed six dimensions of drinking culture representing potentially risky drinking behaviour in situations that fall in the grey zone between work and leisure: (1) “Who invited me?” (Degree of obligation towards inviter), (2) “Do I have to participate?” (Degree of participation volunteerism), (3) “To drink or not to drink?” (Degree of drinking volunteerism), (4) “Work talk or small talk?” (Degree of work-related conversation), (5) “Are there any drinking rules to follow?” (Degree of regulation), and (6) “The influence of being away from home” (degree of distance to home).
Conclusions: The findings reveal that employers and employees’ experience of drinking culture can be categorised as six different “shades of grey”. The grey zone is shaded from light to dark grey, indicating how risky the informants perceive the grey zone to be. The findings may be useful when designing workplace health promotion programmes and alcohol regulations in the workplace.