Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Alcohol at the Office: Exciting Innovation or Inviting Intoxication?

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

comic 27 - drinking at work

As a stockholder of Google Inc. (I own three whole shares), I occasionally get e-mails and letters regarding all sorts of fun Google investor news. Lately a lot of that news has been “our shares are plummeting, you should have sold at $700.” One item in particular I recently read on the Google Investor Relations page caught my eye:

Consumption of alcohol is not banned at our offices, but use good judgment and never drink in a way that leads to impaired performance or inappropriate behavior, endangers the safety of others or violates the law.

My first thought upon reading this was “sweeeeeet.” So were my second through seventeenth thoughts. Eventually, after fighting very hard to resist the temptation to submit my resume immediately, I considered the implications of allowing alcohol consumption at work. First there are the obvious benefits:

  • Alcohol can make co-workers easier to deal with. Oh man, I can think of a dozen people where I work that are fifty times more mellow and easier to work with when they’ve had a drink or five.
  • Alcohol inspires creativity. If you don’t believe me, just keep in mind that the following things were invented by drunk people: electricity, computers, the internet, and reality television. Just make sure you’re not too drunk that you can’t remember your great ideas or at least write them down for later.
  • Alcohol can benefit worker productivity. Allowing personnel to drink at work gives them one less reason to want to go home, so they’ll be more than happy to put in the longer hours today’s work environment demands.
  • Alcohol helps with the Monday Blues. After drinking your weekend away, the last thing you probably want to do is go to work Monday morning. But if you can bring your friends Heineken and Captain Morgan with you, Mondays won’t be quite so bad after all.
  • At least it’s not drugs. Employees who can drink at work will be far less likely to sneak out for a quick “smoke” break, and I ain’t talkin’ ’bout cigarettes. And while some people might argue that alcohol is a drug, I would argue that those people should shut the hell up and have a drink.

Of course, there are also some drawbacks to allowing employees to drink while working.

  • Alcohol can impair judgment. “Should we buy out our competitor for $100 million when it’s only worth $5 million? No! That would be stupid! [Five drinks later.] Yes! That would be awesome!”
  • Alcohol makes people tired and/or slow. While alcohol might keep your workers happier and working longer, they might spend some of those hours re-reading the same paragraph 47 times or sleeping under their desks. Counteract this unfortunate side effect of alcohol by blaring extremely loud heavy metal throughout your office building.
  • Drunk people sometimes fight more. This one sort of speaks for itself, so I’ll also note that a policy allowing alcohol at work is not compatible with policies allowing guns and knives at work. One or the other, people!
  • Alcohol can inspire all sorts of bad behavior. If your workplace already suffers from numerous sexual harassment or ethnic discrimination complaints, letting workers drink might not improve things.
  • Other people might look down on your business if everyone’s drinking all of the time. Then again, Google seems not to mind if its workers get sloshed on the clock and it has at least 70 billion users worldwide.

In the end, the decision on whether or not to allow alcohol in the workplace should be made on a case-by-case basis and only after careful consideration of numerous factors including but not limited to employee diversity, workplace safety, and worker productivity. And if your place of business decides that openly allowing you to bring a six-pack to your cubicle for lunch isn’t a good idea, you can just pre-mix your booze and sneak it past security in a soft drink bottle like everyone else you work with already does.

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