Alcohol at the Office: The Pros, Cons, and A Few Good Guidelines

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Drinking at work can be a professional perk or a casual way to wind down with coworkers after a long day; it’s also a popular way to acknowledge an outstanding quarter or the collective effort to knock a project out of the park. While enjoying cocktails with colleagues can be an enjoyable way to bring an after-hours or celebratory vibe into the office — and might even help people connect and build morale more easily — having alcohol at the office is something to carefully consider.

One of the best things you can do before you go ahead and stock the liquor cabinet is to work with HR to put some a solid alcohol policy in place. If you’re not sure where to begin, start with your goals and then consider some of the common pro and cons:

Pros:

  • Building culture
  • Attracting talent
  • Inspiring connection
  • Celebration
  • Incentivize team performance

  • Increases corporate liability
  • Might exclude teammates who don’t drink (religious reasons, sobriety)
  • Leads to longer working days
  • Exacerbates alcohol problems
  • Can contribute to an environment of harassment

Once you’ve addressed your goals and concerns to outline official company policy, go ahead and provide a handful of suggestions or guidelines for teammates so they can drink responsibly:

1. Follow the rules. When drinking at work, following any HR rules is mandatory. These might include drinking only after a certain hour, on specific occasions, from a specific drink supply, a certain kind of alcohol only (such as celebratory champagne), and more. Set criteria that will help you foster your goal, whether it’s to create a specific type of culture or atmosphere, host weekly happy hours that attract new talent, or to celebrate on special occasions.

2. Be self-aware. Being self-aware is key to drinking responsibly at the office, starting with what you drink, how you drink, and ultimately, how much you drink. To strike it right, pour your own drink so you can control the contents or pick a beverage that you know doesn’t bother you.

3. Strike a healthy balance. Responsible drinking can be healthy drinking, so be sure you’ve had a well-balanced meal before you start drinking and sip on water in between each drink. Since the last thing you want to be is the out-of-control teammate who is hungover (or embarrassed!) the next day, make a conscious effort to eat enough, stay hydrated, and pace yourself. To play it safe, stick with no more than one drink per hour.