Managing Alcohol Consumption for Workplace Success

There are many reasons to go out drinking after work; whether you’re toasting a professional success, celebrating a colleague’s birthday, or just letting off some steam, having drinks with coworkers is a common part of workplace culture. While heading to the bar can be an easy way of connecting with colleagues outside of the workplace, many of us can relate to throwing back a few too many and feeling the effects the next day. Here at amge+, we recently discussed the effects of alcohol and hangovers on productivity over lunch. Following that discussion, we looked into it further and found some very interesting facts about how alcohol affects us the day after a night out drinking.

While many working-age Australians consume alcohol safely and responsibly, it’s estimated that one in five adults consumes more than two standard drinks per day on average. This level of consumption is associated with risk of harm from alcohol-related disease or injury; this risk increases the more you drink. Alcohol can have negative effects on workplace performance as well, which prompted WorkSafe Victoria to publish a guide on establishing workplace alcohol policies. Sharing a drink or two with colleagues can be a perfectly fine way to relax and build camaraderie, but it’s important to consider the effects alcohol consumption have on your work in order to minimize negative consequences associated with your performance.

Most people would never show up to work intoxicated, but many of us forget that having a hangover at work can be just as problematic. Hangover symptoms like headaches, blurred vision, irritability, problems concentrating, and extreme tiredness can create problems for you and your coworkers. Even if you end your night early, drinking alcohol will lead to less restful sleep, and, according to a recent study, your memory and psychomotor performance can remain impaired throughout the next morning even after your blood alcohol level returns to zero. You will likely experience difficulty with attention, problem-solving, and other executive functions as well.

Drinking alcohol in a professional setting presents additional challenges, as lowered inhibitions can lead to less-than-professional behaviors such as hooking up with co-workers, gossiping, or arguing. Limiting alcohol consumption can help you stay in control while still enjoying some quality time with your colleagues. On any one occasion, it’s recommended to keep alcohol consumption to fewer than four standard drinks. A standard drink contains approximately 10 grams of alcohol - examples include a 285ml pot of full strength beer, 100ml of wine, or a 30ml ‘shot’ of spirits. Keeping in mind that the body can process one standard drink per hour, you can alternate your beverages with non-alcoholic drinks to stay within “low-risk” levels. If you wish to abstain from drinking alcohol for the entire evening, you could offer reasons like a medication interaction or an early morning workout if anyone asks why you’re staying sober. Ordering a seltzer water can help you avoid awkward questions about why you’re not drinking, since it could easily resemble an alcoholic beverage.

Responsible consumption of alcohol can be a perfectly fine way to relax with colleagues after a hard day of work. However, when pursuing a fulfilling and successful career and life, it’s good to remain informed about how to handle our alcohol so we can make wiser decisions and prevent any negative effects from seeping in. If you want to learn more about safer alcohol consumption, the Australian Government Department of Health and the Australian National Preventive Health Agency are great places to start.