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It sounds like it’s not okay to drink during work hours anymore

  1. Drinking at work

    ChrisGoodfellow UKBF Regular Full Member - Verified Business

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    My first mentor as a wet behind the ears journalist was a boisterous lady from Seattle. Having already established a successful career and being a font of industry knowledge she was a brilliant coach.

    The cultural differences in her approach to work were interesting too. For starters, she was appalled by the idea anyone would drink at lunchtime and think they could still edit a magazine (which we did).

    At Sift, the company that owns UK Business Forums, we even occasionally have drinks at our desks on Fridays. Somewhere around 4 pm the clinking of bottles that signal the arrival of the beer trolley send us salivating for the weekend like Pavlov's dogs.

    Perhaps I’m biased? Thinking about the media can conjure a picture of yesteryear’s hacks smoking at their desks, running up expense accounts and slowly pickling themselves in Fleet Street’s infamous boozers. Or today’s Sift-like new media companies with their bean bag cushions and in-house bars.

    But it begs a question that’s been popular on UK Business Forums: is it ever right to drink before coming back to work? And, what should you do about your employees?

    According to YouGov, some 60% of the public think it’s unacceptable to drink with a meal at lunchtime. Last month, Lloyd’s reportedly angered workers by banning lunchtime drinking based on an “examination of grievance and disciplinary cases”. Is this a signal of changing working culture? Was my old editor ahead of her time?

    From a practical perspective, HR specialist Employment Law Clinic suggested the ban is likely unnecessary as “as anyone that can’t fulfil their duties – due to alcohol or otherwise – would face disciplinary/capability procedures”.

    The discussion that followed this point, tended to stress that employees and managers alike have a personal responsibility not to drink. “I am of the old school. I feel management have a responsibility to ensure that staff have as clearer head as possible whilst working for them,” said business advisor profitxchange. “I also feel that management have a responsibility to set an example both inside and outside the workplace. Booze, drugs etc. are a no-no for me, one never knows when an employee may have to drive, deal with an emergency for a colleague or themselves.”

    ISL Recruitment echoed profitxchange’s view, saying “booze is an absolute no-no when you're on my time”.

    Indeed, it can be daunting for employees to deal with those that drink during work hours. BustersDogs recalled working as an office junior for two staff that went to the pub “every lunchtime”.

    “When one of them was going through my afternoon's work with me, he stank of stale beer and cigarettes and I really hated it. I would do everything to avoid having to deal with him in the afternoons, including never asking for help or saying I'd finished,” she said.

    In some cases, there are problems with managing employees that like to drink.  

    Paulears said that while technically speaking those working in the entertainment industry shouldn’t be drinking before or during performances due to strict venue rules it’s often tolerated.

    “Many of the musicians play better when lubricated and I'm often thankful people do not bring this to my attention. When I do discover issues, it's likely the musical director noticed first and has already sorted it out without needing to advance the issue to me.

    “We are a very strange industry - problems are often managed privately, in their working groups and rarely follow the usual pyramid upwards,” he said.

    Profitxchange also said he used to manage a factory with 1,000-plus employees where it was clear a number had alcohol problems - “booze and machinery did not mix”.  

    On balance, whether it’s sensible to drink during lunchtime or not depends largely on what industry you’re in.There are clearly those where any alcohol would be irresponsible - across any sector, though, most agree moderation is important; it’s okay to have one drink, but not to be drunk.

    When making the announcement, Lloyd's said it had been considering the move for some time to bring it into line with "industry norms".

    The article said employees felt the move was "heavy-handed" and Employment Law Clinic says that Lloyds’ policy is flawed. Instead, he suggests that an employer includes a policy that states "you must not present for work under the influence of…," to take into account people that may cause problems.

  2. Employment Law Clinic

    Employment Law Clinic UKBF Big Shot Full Member - Verified Business

    3,171 1,492
    But due to Lloyds new policy covering only lunchtime, I guess it's ok to have a drink before work - with breakfast - or even at the desk after lunch. The opportunities for most are not common, but if you work in Lloyds, breakfast with a beer is easily available. And no-one has argued against that - it's only lunchtime that has a stigma.

    Was it a bad thing when my one of my bosses would come to my office at the quiet end of the day to negotiate something, and I'd pull out the whisky for our informal talks? The outcome of drinking (or any other reason that actually affects the performance) has to be addressed, not one ineffective policy that doesn't even deal with the problem.

    Karl Limpert
    Posted: Mar 19, 2017 By: Employment Law Clinic Member since: Aug 10, 2009
  3. Francois Badenhorst

    Francois Badenhorst Business Editor, UKBF & AWEB Staff Member

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    It's personal choice, I guess. If I was a business owner I'd simply encourage personal responsibility rather than make some hard and fast rules. There's a tightrope you have to walk as an adult and you have to take responsibility for that.

    If you feel like you can't trust your employee to be a responsible, mature human being then you shouldn't have hired them to begin with.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2017
    Posted: Mar 20, 2017 By: Francois Badenhorst Member since: Aug 25, 2015
    Pat Walsh and ChrisGoodfellow like this.
  4. Pat Walsh

    Pat Walsh UKBF Contributor Full Member

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    I think its fine if people keep it sensible - e.g. one or two drinks at lunchtime. If someone knocks back five pints or a bottle of wine and then goes back to the office, things are likely to go a bit wrong.

    The social element of going to the pub or a restaurant is good and in some sectors and locations its important for networking and keeping up with the general chit chat. Most of the pubs in the City are pretty full at lunchtimes and heaving on Fridays.
    Posted: Apr 27, 2017 By: Pat Walsh Member since: Apr 14, 2017