HOW SPIRITED SHOULD YOUR HOLIDAY PARTY BE?
IS IT OK TO ALLOW EMPLOYEES TO DRINK ALCOHOL AT WORK?
Your company probably isn’t much like Sterling Cooper, the advertising agency from Mad Men. However, in 2023, you should have something Sterling Cooper didn’t: a clear policy about drinking alcohol at work. Sure, the days of the three-martini lunch are largely gone, but if you celebrate happy hour or have the occasional special event — you’ll need to be clear about what is acceptable alcohol consumption. And with the holiday party season almost upon us, now is a good time to consider some options.
YES, THERE ARE BENEFITS
Obviously not every industry can allow alcohol at work. Drivers, medical personnel, and operators of heavy machinery should wait until they’re off the clock for a beer or glass of wine. But if your company comprises a team of creative professionals, for example, the benefits of team bonding could be substantial. Many employers have reported greater bonding experiences over a celebratory beer or glass of wine.
YES, THERE ARE ALSO RISKS
The risks associated with alcohol use are very clear. By sanctioning alcohol consumption, you may open yourself to liability for alcohol-related incidents, like car accidents or bones broken on company softball night. Or it might compromise the sobriety of an employee who is recovering from addiction. It could also exclude employees who don’t use alcohol and make them feel isolated.
JUST BE SMART
Get HR involved, and you may decide that a thoughtfully written policy allowing alcohol use at work is the best course.
While most US companies already have a written drug and alcohol policy, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to writing your own. Depending on the industry, you might find that a policy allowing alcohol only after 5 p.m. is sufficient. You may only need a policy for holiday parties and when for these types of occasions, consider your options:
- Serve just beer and wine, and no liquor.
- Limit the number of drinks you provide by using drink tickets or another informal method of tracking the amount of alcohol served.
- Ensure there are more than sufficient alternative non-alcoholic beverages.
- Ensure there are plenty of snacks and/or heavy appetizers available if a full meal is not involved.
- If this is a seated event at a restaurant/hotel and there are servers, make sure the staff management is advised in advance that there is a two-drink maximum per person.
- Have a few designated people to discreetly observe and ensure no one becomes impaired, and if so, make alternate arrangements for them to get home using a service, such as Lyft, Uber, or taxi.
Besides the written policy, just follow common sense. Most important, remember that management sets the culture. In this and all workplace behaviors, set a good example and make good choices.
December 7, 2023