3 Reasons Alcohol at Work is No Biggie

The keg has become the new water cooler.
Frank Ockenfels/AMC

Hey, it worked in Mad Men. (Photo courtesy of Frank Ockenfels/AMC)

I’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, and while the smoking and sexual harassment in the Madison Avenue 1960s looks archaic by today’s standards, the office boozing is starting to look amazingly normal.

Sure, Don Draper and his cohorts were drinking way too much on the clock, from the vodka in the morning, to the bourbon shots during the day, to the old fashions at night. But is it really that different from today’s workplace?

Sure Corporate America gradually cleaned up its act over the next 50 years, especially in the 1990s when sexual harassment became front-page news (thanks Clarence Thomas) and wild office parties began to wane. Then the corporate world overcorrected with many large companies banning alcohol altogether. But the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and people’s reverence for the tech industry helped bring booze back into the equation.

I spoke to some local business owners and experts about the topic, and they agree that drinking at work isn’t a big deal. Here’s why:

1. It’s the Startup Standard

Young, progressive tech companies allow employees to drink at work. Twitter, Yelp and plenty of other super-successful companies have beer in the fridge or on tap. Here in Philly, co-working space Benjamin’s Desk serves Yards. Zivtech, a Philly-based builder of websites and web applications has two beers on tap in its kitchen.

Zivtech co-founder and CEO Alex Urevick-Ackelsberg said the country as a whole is becoming a lot less uptight, likely because startups made business a lot more fun.

“We want our offices to be a desirable destination for employees who could largely work remote without many problems,” he said. “It’s more of an incentive to come into the office than to work hard. Everyone at Zivtech is expected to act responsibly and be awesome at their job. We also host a lot of events, and beer also helps to draw people to our office.”

Lynne Andersson, associate professor of human resource management at Temple’s Fox School of Business, said companies are all about “blending work and play — the whole Google workplace concept.”

“People look at those companies as models and try to emulate them,” she said.

2. Employees Need a Break

In the wake of the economic recession, people are working harder than ever. Employers were forced to do more with less — and even though the economy has been recovering for years, plenty of companies are still squeezing as much production as possible from each employee.

So give employees a freakin’ break once in a while.

At Maven Communications in Center City, alcohol comes out on Fridays at 4 p.m. It’s served as a little reward to the mostly millennial staff for working hard work during the week.

“Even though we demand a lot from our employees, we want them to feel like they enjoy being here,” said Jessica Sharp, co-founder and principal. “We just see it as a perk.”

3. A Fun Work Environment Makes Employees More Engaged

People want a loose work environment. Sure, that doesn’t work for every company (or employee) but when people feel like they can let their hair down, they’re likely to be more comfortable and engaged. That’s why stuffy office environments are fading fast.

“Large companies are more risk averse about everything, which is why their cultures are so suffocating,” said Urevick-Ackelsberg. “I’m very concerned about the health and safety of our staff and guests, I just don’t see how having beer in the office vs. immediately outside of our office adds to the risk for the health or safety of the people that work here.”