Alcohol in the Workplace: “Keg Culture” and What it Means for Health and Safety OLE




Alcohol in the Workplace: “Keg Culture” and What it Means for Health and Safety

We used to reminisce about workplaces of the past, that featured 1950s cinema-esque types, who worked long days with cocktails in hand. Somewhere along the line, between nostalgia and reality, drinking at work was given a bad reputation, and became heavily frowned upon in the corporate world. However, like most trends from the past (even those that should never, ever be brought back) consuming alcohol at work is back. Drinking at work is now considered trendy and a sign of an ultra-modern workplace culture.

Drinking at Work: Is it really a “Thing”?

Start-ups and many other tech companies are known for their experimental or non-traditional work environments. As well, many established companies Canada-wide are moving toward a more relaxed culture. Workplaces such as these feature various “things,” such as workplace Ping-Pong or billiards tables, catered lunches or snacks for employees, various team-building outings, on-site massages, and flexible working arrangements. As well, some of these workplaces have fridges that contain juice and pop, available for free to employees. Sometimes, these beverage coolers are stocked with the usual accouterments, as well as beer, wine, and/or other spirits. The rationale behind such perks is that exceptionally high achievement is expected in return.

The Impact of Keg Culture on Socialization

It’s official! Drinking at work is back, and it may be an important part of some workplace cultures. So, how does that affect socialization? Consider the following: If workplace drinking is part of the culture at work, how does it affect abstainers? How does it affect those who have a hard time moderating their intake? How does it affect the workers who have to drive home, or have to pick up their kids and look after them after work? The important thing to keep in mind if your workplace does have a beer fridge is that moderation is key, and no means no. Ostracizing those who chose pop over beer is unfair, regardless the culture, and pressuring anyone who declines a drink isn’t cool, either. Their reasons are personal, so just leave it at that.

The Impact of Keg Culture on Productivity

Sometimes, when you think of a beer fridge at work, or access to wine, it brings to mind an image of drunken workers struggling to keep their heads off their desks after an afternoon of imbibing. This image really defeats the spirit of keg culture. The idea of having a beer fridge or wine onsite isn’t to encourage debauchery. In fact, this article from credits keg culture with increasing employee bonding, productivity, and creativity. They even argue that having beer available at work can be a powerful recruiting tool! They suggest following some simple rules to ensure that everybody benefits, which include only offering beer due to its lighter alcohol content, and limiting oneself to only 1-2 drinks. They also offer the age-old advice of not forgetting to eat and avoiding drinking on an empty stomach.

The Impact of Keg Culture on Health and Safety

The benefits and perks of having alcohol available at work are listed above, but many detractors to the idea cite severe and serious health and safety concerns. The obvious concern is that an employee will enjoy a beer from the fridge in the afternoon, and then drive home impaired. This opens the company to huge risks for liability lawsuits. As well, alcohol consumption is tied to less inhibited behaviors, potentially creating a risk environment for harassment, sexual harassment, or violence. Additionally, workers who go over their limit are more likely to have a slip, trip, or fall from the same level accident. Concerns also include reaction times, ability to make decisions, and addiction issues.

Like most good things in life, moderation is the key. The same applies to workplace drinking and keg culture. If your workplace decides to install a keg fridge, offer beer or wine, or otherwise, it should be accompanied by a policy outlining limits and expectations. Knowing your own limits will certainly help ensure that you don’t abuse the perk. From a health and safety perspective, having a policy in place is great, but ensure that you also have some backup policies for any scenario should things go awry. For example, have a plan in place to deal with a worker who does over-do it, and always, always have procedures to deal with any worker who cannot drive home. If keg culture appeals to you, and you wish to give it try, first really examine your workplace to determine if it’s a good fit. If you decide to implement it, do so responsibly.

Online Learning Enterprises Can Help!

To learn more about Online Learning Enterprises’ Health and Safety Management System, or to see a listing of the courses that we offer, click here. Or, call 877-652-5262 today to speak with a health and safety adviser.