If you’ve worked in HR for any length of time, you must be familiar with Mad Men. Classic “what-not-to-do” in the workplace in the 21st Century. Every episode was always good for a few chuckles, along with a few cringes and head shaking. I recently came upon an article regarding drinking on the job and was immediately recalling images of Don Draper’s post-lunch naps, preceded by a cocktail. Surely, there is a place for alcohol in the workplace- usually for celebratory purposes. Beyond that, I’m not sure I’m sold on the idea or whether, from a worker’s compensation standpoint, it is a good idea. But I will let you decide.
Going out for a beer after work is probably one of the oldest traditions in the modern workplace, but lately a growing number of companies are bucking that tradition by allowing alcohol in the office as an employee perk.
The Wall Street Journal called the office keg the new water cooler in a recent article, citing a Boston advertising agency who installed a beer vending machine in their break room. But companies get far more liberal with alcohol than that – some allow drinks at desks and during work hours.
Dropbox has something called “Whiskey Fridays,” and Threadless even brewed their own IPA.
Additionally, alcohol at work is becoming a clarion call for companies hoping to attract young, hip workers. In fact, the age of going out to the bar after work may be in a decline, and in a time of increased employee engagement, companies are helping the bar come to you.
There are two schools of thought on alcohol at work:
While alcohol may take the edge off a stressful workday, it can also harm productivity and employee health if left unchecked. A recent study from the British Medical Journal revealed that working 48 plus hours a week led to more “risky” alcohol use from employees, defined as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men, more commonly known as binge drinking.
We may joke about it occasionally, but hangovers – and they’ve actually done studies on this – from excessive drinking cost the U.S. economy some $250 billion annually in lost productivity. High-stress workplaces may see alcohol as an appropriate reward for a hard day’s work, but organizations that don’t balance it out properly with workload can quickly become enablers.
Here are some best practices if you decide to make alcohol available to your staff:
All in all, alcohol at work should be carefully considered. It can really help camaraderie and hit the spot for everyone if the culture is conducive to it. However, it depends entirely on the working environment and how well it’s managed. You want to make sure that if you provide alcohol it’s being used for fun and relaxation, not survival, and that everyone’s personal health is top of mind.
So, having read the new take on alcohol in the workplace, what are your thoughts?
*This article was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.