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Let's Have a Drink and Talk About Alcohol in the Workplace

When it comes to contentious topics, few can beat the debate about whether or not alcohol has any place in today's workplace. There's a wide range of opinions on the subject ranging from zero tolerance for alcohol consumption on the job right through to the other end of the spectrum.

While alcohol use on the job has been a long-standing tradition among many white-collar professions like bankers, lawyers, and stock brokers, most workplaces have banned alcohol useout of concern for the safety of their employees and the public at large. Industries that involve operating machinery, transportation, or performing medical procedures are strict no-alcohol zones for obvious reasons.

Beer As A Workplace Perk?

Tech companies like Facebook, Yelp, Zillow, and Twitter have built their businesses by 'looking outside the box', and that includes their approach to how employees are treated at work.

In an effort to recruit and retain the best and brightest tech experts, these companies offer unique perks like free beer at the office as a way to encourage employees to work longer hours, socialize with their colleagues, and blur the lines between home and work.

Advocates of low-alcohol content beverages like beer in the workplace love studies that support the notion that moderate alcohol use boosts creativity, which isn't surprising, given that alcohol has long been known to reduce inhibitions. Moderate drinking has also been linked to lower rates of Type 2 Diabetes, improved cardiovascular health, and even prevention of the common cold, supporting the stance that alcohol isn't just about intoxication.

Alcohol And Addiction

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, over 15 million adults aged 18 and older, or 6.2 percent, suffer from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Formerly known as alcoholism, AUD includes any use of alcohol that causes problems with health, safety, and daily living, including negative impacts on interpersonal relationships, finances, and work.

Employers are legally obliged to provide their employees with a safe workplace, and for people living with AUD, the presence of alcohol on the job could certainly be seen as an unsafe situation. In fact, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects employees who have been diagnosed with AUD, which puts the onus on the employer to both accommodate and protect the addicted employee.

The Takeaway? Abstinence Is The Safest Bet

So while it's entirely possible to create a workplace culture where moderate, controlled drinking is an integral part of performance, employee retention, and even client recruitment, it's important for employers to recognize the risks that come with allowing on-the-job drinking.

In today's environment, the safest bet for employers is to simply ban alcohol use at work, although with the right policies and procedures in place (including access to public transit, and a way to self-exclude from alcohol use) alcohol can have a role in your enterprise.


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