Mixing wine and work

"Reasonably temperate alcohol consumption turns us from mindless automatons focused relentlessly on workplace issues into people with hobbies, interests and points of view".

"Reasonably temperate alcohol consumption turns us from mindless automatons focused relentlessly on workplace issues into people with hobbies, interests and points of view". Photo: HBO

When I sat down to write in defense of workplace drinks, I thought this was going to be easy.  Who doesn’t love Friday drinks?  MANY PEOPLE, it turns out.  Confusingly, there is a plethora of articles urging caution at the idea of consuming anything stronger than Ribena with one’s workmates.   

Note that I’m not talking about hitting the bottle at your desk.  If you find yourself reaching for the hip flask at 10am on Tuesday morning, I’d advise you to seek out a new job and the services of a qualified drug and alcohol counselor, not necessarily in that order.  And to be clear, nor do I think that all workplace social events should include alcohol.  It’s important to be inclusive of non-drinkers (those clear-eyed, dewy-skinned jerks), those with caring responsibilities, and those who just aren’t inclined towards spending their evenings with people they see all day.

I’m also conscious of the distinction between workplace drinks that provide fun opportunities to unwind, and those that are socially mandated torture sessions where you’re imprisoned in a smoke-filled room with a gaggle of suit-wearing jackasses and forced to laugh tonelessly at your manager’s tired (and quite frequently pretty sexist) jokes.  What I do support is a culture of respectful, inclusive, occasional socialising with an eye to spending a couple of hours consuming a reasonable amount of wine with colleagues as a pleasing segue into the weekend. 

Just speaking for myself, I’m all in favour of booze at any occasion where I’m forced to meet new people, as it is the cheapest, easiest and most painless cure for debilitating social awkwardness.  Two glasses of Shiraz, and my internal monologue will generally transform seamlessly from ‘Oh my god, what is wrong with you?  Do you have spinach in your teeth??  JUST GO STAND BY THE BINS AND TRY NOT TO BOTHER ANYONE’ to ‘It’s OK, little buddy!  You can do small talk!  Go on, ask that girl where she bought those cute shoes!’.  I’m not 100% convinced that this process doesn’t involve sorcery (although I am certain that my disastrous first day at kindergarten would have gone much better were it acceptable for 4 year olds to be a little bit soused[1]).  All I know is that I enjoy having an avenue by which I can go from being the super odd girl who obsessively talks about work, to being the slightly odd girl who also talks about ‘90s teen films and the proper method for making marmalade.   

Even for those whose brains don’t moonlight as Regina George impersonators (and oh, how I envy you lucky bastards), reasonably temperate alcohol consumption turns us from mindless automatons focused relentlessly on workplace issues into people with hobbies, interests and points of view. 

Friday drinks are where Brian from Finance who is endlessly exasperated by your inability to understand a simple spreadsheet becomes Brian who skydives and once saw Madonna drinking a pint in a London pub.  They allow us to remember our common humanity in the face of spreadsheet-based persecution and other workplace quirks and foibles.  (Incidentally, names have been changed to protect the innocent, and also because in my mind everyone who works in Finance is called Brian, even the ladies.)

Finally, my rigorous data collection indicates that a significant number of Australians meet their partners at work.  I would be able to provide you with actual statistics if I hadn’t become lost down an internet black hole researching famous couples who met in the workplace (let’s just say that I presume we’d all prefer to emulate Barack and Michelle Obama than Newt and Callista Gingrich in this regard). 

I’d venture that alcohol features fairly heavily in most workplace romances, for the simple reason that it transforms the ridiculously attractive person who floats past your desk as you blush and struggle not to make inappropriately high pitched noises, into the ridiculously attractive person with whom you played pool and had a heated discussion about Springsteen lyrics. 

I suspect I’m not alone in spending more time with my colleagues than I do with my family. Fortunately I work with a delightful bunch of people whom I like immensely.  I’m not suggesting that drinks should be our sole forum for social interaction (I’m the world’s biggest supporter of workplace netball leagues, if only because it’s deeply humanizing to witness colleagues getting worked up about what constitutes a three foot distance and whether it’s permissible for accidental scratching to go un-penalised).  But Friday drinks provide a unique and sometimes quite lovely space for unhurried conversation, where we can find out about our colleagues’ lives, what they do in their spare time, how they make marmalade and where they bought those cute shoes, and I for one wouldn’t give that up for the world.


[1] After previously wading into the murky and humorless territory occupied by people who can’t stop talking about their food allergies, I feel it incumbent upon me to note that I’m not actually advocating giving wine to 4 year olds.  Unless they’re REALLY shy.   

10 comments

  • I'm all for Friday drinks.

    Anything that gets me away from my computer any earlier on a friday and into the weekend is more than welcome.

    Commenter
    Adrian
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    July 26, 2013, 9:58AM
    • I love Friday drinks and have tried to institute at at all my workplaces.

      While I don't want to sit around with my colleagues every week, every fortnight or so it is good to sit around and shoot the breeze over a few wines and some cheese. Working in a policy environment it can be a really good way to discuss the ins and outs of the big issues in an informal setting and it can relieve the tension when things get a bit frantic.

      Commenter
      Jules
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      July 26, 2013, 10:08AM
      • I miss the good old days of the 80's and 90's. Long Friday lunch, go back to work just to sign off and meet back at the pub! Then the fun police got involved and now you get frowned upon for even having a glass of wine at lunch :(

        Commenter
        Cat Lady
        Date and time
        July 26, 2013, 10:57AM
        • They were the days... and I remember them fondly
          Fortunately I now have a job where I am required to do a bit of schmoozing & boozing - all on the corporate card....

          Commenter
          Love it
          Date and time
          July 26, 2013, 3:56PM
        • I remember good old days from earlier times than that, when Friday drinks morphed into early AM Saturday drinks, then the realisation would dawn with the sun that you'd agreed to work the Saturday morning, so you'd schlep into work grinning under bloodshot eyes still in your Friday clothes. Nothing a few coffees wouldn't fix.

          Commenter
          alto
          Date and time
          July 26, 2013, 4:19PM
      • Friday night drinks are a two edged sword. On the one hand they can bring a bunch of people together as a co-operative cohesive team, but used for evil and not good, they can lead to intrigue of soap opera proportions. Almost all career-limiting behaviour seemed to happen in the kicking on afterward section of the evening, so my policy was to stay until 7.30pm, when drinks wound up in the boardroom and go home. Seemed to work well.

        Commenter
        Mara
        Location
        Melb
        Date and time
        July 26, 2013, 12:33PM
        • Depends on the bunch of people you work with. Given the current bunch of absolute tools I have the misfortune to work with, you would have to drag me kicking and screaming into the kitchen to have a wine with them.

          Commenter
          I said NO THANK YOU
          Date and time
          July 26, 2013, 1:55PM
          • Unfortunately as a married 34yo I don’t see my workplace like that and have to disagree… I think I spend enough time with the people I work with and don’t want to know their private side or opinions. They do enough of that during the day. I don’t care if Brian from accounts went skydiving nor do I want to debate politics with him. I’d rather spend my (precious and way too little) free time with friends that I actually want to catch up with… if that’s a real friend from work that’s great but these mass social functions that are a forced fake-ness are pointless. When the big boss does decides to show his human side and wants to treat us to an early mark via drinks (bribery I think that’s called) I find most staff only have one drink, where everyone is PC, awkward and still pretend to laugh at the bosses bad jokes. Why do we need to pretend and I avoid these like the plague.
            After work drinks as a younger man was only to hit on the pretty girls at work...

            Commenter
            Me mate Dave
            Date and time
            July 26, 2013, 1:58PM
            • Yep, I've no interest. Some people at work I like enough to catch up with outside of hours, but that's organised as I would with any other friends. They have my personal mobile number and email.

              Commenter
              Tim the Toolman
              Date and time
              July 26, 2013, 3:09PM
          • To the wise person who chose that picture of Jason Schwartzman - it's like you can see inside my brain....

            Commenter
            Pip_R
            Date and time
            July 26, 2013, 3:55PM
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