One of the things I've been noticing in many recent office designs – especially within the startup culture of San Francisco – is the addition of kitchens and pantry areas which are used to serve alcohol. I'm not exactly sure when this trend began, but it is definitely one to both pay attention to and think carefully about as you consider the type of workplace you're trying to build.

And with New Year's Day and New Year's parties right around the corner, it is also a timely topic.

One recent article in Forbes explains a bit about the trend:

"Plenty of offices provide free food to their workers, but as the workday in many tech and media companies stretches past the cocktail hour, more companies are stocking full bars and beer fridges, installing on-site taverns and digitized kegs and even deploying engineering talent to design futuristic drink dispensers.

The perk, firms say, helps lure talent, connects employees across different divisions and keeps people from leaving the office as the lines between work and social lives blur."

Trust In The Workplace

With employers requiring staff to stay later, companies like Twitter feel like they can trust their employees to behave responsibly. As one Twitter spokesperson says on the topic, “We treat employees as adults, and they act accordingly…”. 

But as a key ingredient in that trust and responsibility, many companies have opted to serve alcohol outside of the confines of normal 9-5 office hours. Bloomberg notes that companies like Yelp try to do this, but also takes the extra step to monitor employee consumption by requiring that they sign in to receive drinks.

Holiday Parties

Outside of the tech startup industry and the advertising world, it is pretty clear that most companies out there simply do not serve any sort of beer, wine, or hard liquor during work hours. However, many companies do throw holiday parties in which alcohol floweth like water.

If that is you, Businessweek offers some helpful guidelines on throwing a responsible holiday party at the office:

  1. Establish in pre-function communications that minors cannot drink alcohol, and that they—as well as any adult who obtains it for them—will face termination if they consume any.
  2. Make clear in pre-function communications that employees under the influence must stay out of the driver’s seat.
  3. Have a bartender serve the alcohol. Letting employees serve themselves can encourage them to help themselves too often and pour too generously.
  4. Establish a maximum number of drinks that an individual can have.
  5. Make available cab vouchers that employees can use without having to go to a manager. So what if a few employees abuse the privilege? If the vouchers prevent one accident, they embody money well-spent.
  6. Assign certain managers to keep their eyes and ears open for individuals who appear intoxicated at the party.
  7. Serve plenty of nonalcoholic beverages and lots of food.
  8. Shorten the happy hour.
  9. Consider requiring employees to pay for their alcoholic drinks, then donate the payments to a charity.

How does your company handle alcohol in the office and around the holidays?

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