Drinking at work: Is it ever okay?

Is it ever okay to drink in the workplace?

Despite what Mad Men may teach us, it’s been a long time since cocktails were a daily part of doing business. Booze and business don’t mix, as shown by a recent survey on the number of lost productivity hours due to hangovers. In addition, employers reserve the right to deny employment based on test results for drug (including alcohol) dependency, terminate employees who come to work drunk, and either fire or put on probation workers who are frequently hungover.

Despite this business-wide ban on booze, there are always several occasions a year when drinking at work can happen – the annual Christmas party, golf tournaments, or Stampede party (if you live in Calgary). Sales jobs often involve wining and dining potential clients, while bartenders, sommeliers, and liquor store representatives frequently need to taste test or are brought drinks on the job.

So how do you combine company-sanctioned ‘drinking on the job’ with keeping your job? Here are a few suggestions.

Know your limits

The most important thing, always, is to know your personal drinking limits. Stick to a liquor type you know that affects you the least and pace yourself. Don’t mix types of liquor, drink as much water as you can, and don’t engage in drinking games – no matter what the temptation or level of peer pressure.

Professional sommeliers and liquor store reps are never drunk on the job, despite tasting massive amounts of liquor. Why? They will tell you that they don’t swallow the liquor – they spit it back out. Take a page from their book and show restraint when you’re around liquor at work.

Never drink and drive

Most companies offer taxi vouchers for their sales reps, or for all staff after a company party, and for good reason. No matter how little you think booze affects you, Canada’s low drunk-driving limits means that almost everyone is over the legal limit by the time they’ve had two drinks. Driving drunk is stupid, illegal, and dangerous under any conditions. Do it on company hours, after a company event, or in a company vehicle and you can also kiss your job goodbye.

Don’t get silly

It may be an office party, but the emphasis should be on office. It’s fine to have a drink or two with your colleagues while celebrating a promotion or landing a big client. The trick is to remember it’s still a work event, and to cut yourself off before you start dancing on the tables. Having a good time is not worth risking your job – which you’ll do if you get stupid drunk in front of your coworkers and bosses.

Working at home isn’t a chance to party

While a lot of people may joke that the joys of working from home involve a six-pack and your favourite pajamas, you’re still working. Drinking on either your employer’s time or your own, if you’re self-employed, just leads to a lack of productivity and slower project completion times. This means you’re only hurting yourself as either your employer or your clients will eventually get fed up with missed deadlines and either end your working from home privileges or sever ties entirely. Put down that bottle of wine until you finish work for the day!

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