My boss sent me an interesting article this morning from the Wall Street Journal, titled, “More Offices Offer Workers Alcohol.” The article dissects all of the pros and cons of drinking in the work environment and cites a number of different companies that are doing it.
The story was picked up by the Today Show this morning, and a number of other, smaller outlets as well. So, I think it’s safe to say, the story’s gaining some traction, and we have a few points to add to the conversation.
Firstly and most importantly, this really isn’t news. We’ve been drinking on the job since 1999, and we’ve been writing about it for quite some time too. My colleague, Liz, wrote a post back in 2011 listing 7 benefits of drinking on the job. Last summer, I did a piece about a psychological experiment on the effects of workplace drinking, and Liz did another one in January on the team building benefits of craft beer exchange programs.
This isn’t about telling you all, “We told you so,” although we did tell you so. Honestly, I’m happy this topic is getting some coverage, because I truly believe, when done properly, drinking at work can be incredibly beneficial.
Before I go any further, let me give you the highlights of the article. Below are the pros and cons of workplace boozing benefits, as expressed by the companies profiled in the Journal article.
1. Helps lure talent, connects employees across different divisions, and keeps people from leaving the office as the lines between work and social lives blur.
2. It may keep people at their desks longer.
3. Communicates to possible employees that your company isn’t bland and corporate.
1. Employment lawyers warn that encouraging drinking at work can lead to driving while intoxicated, assault, sexual harassment, or rape.
2. It may make some employees uncomfortable while excluding others, such as those who don’t drink for health or religious reasons.
3. For tech firms, where office drinking is quite common, they argue that the practice might turn off those who don’t fit the demographic (single white male), such as parents, people of color, or recovering addicts and alcoholics.
Here are my thoughts on all of that:
1. I agree with the part about luring talent, although the second point perturbs me a bit. If you’re using the perk solely as a way to get your people to work longer, forget about it. This is supposed to be a reward, a token of appreciation, not a method for squeezing more out of them.
2. Refer to #1.
3. I completely agree with this point. I know when I was interviewing here at KegWorks, the Beer O’Clock perk was a big differentiator, and I loved it.
1. I see this point, for sure. However, it’s all about the rules. For instance, at KegWorks, we’re allowed one drink from our kegerator at 4pm, and this rule means that no one is inebriated, so none of the resulting problems occur.
2. We have quite a few people here who don’t drink. No one pressures them, and quite frequently, they come in to the break room where the kegerator is, have a soda, and chill with everyone who is drinking. It’s about the bonding more than the drink in your hand. It’s just nice for those who do enjoy a beer to have that ability after a long day.
3. As a white male myself, I can’t speak directly to this point. With that said, I know a number of the people here who do not fit in that demographic group, and to the best of my knowledge, they feel perfectly comfortable with Beer O’Clock.
It’s really all about how you do it. You’ve got to have rules, but don’t go too crazy with restrictions. I’d encourage offering this perk during work hours – not too early, but maybe an hour before the work day ends. That way, it really feels like a perk. If you offer it after closing time, not only will it lose much of its allure, but it will exclude those who have a families and other commitments after work.
Have a 1-2 drink limit, and don’t expect your employees to grab their beer and run back to their desks. Encourage them to hang out for a bit. Let them talk – chances are, they’ll be discussing work projects anyhow.
If you follow these few guidelines, you will definitely see a lift in morale. Your company will lose a bit of the “bland and corporate” perception, if you have any of that, and you will absolutely attract a larger number of prospective employees.
Alright, that’s all I have. Thank you Today and Wall Street Journal for bringing this issue to the forefront. Now, is it Beer O’Clock yet?