Should workplaces cap alcohol at office parties? What readers told NationalWorld and what experts say

NationalWorld readers had a mixed response to the question if office parties should have an alcohol cap
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A warning from a recent poll by the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) has led to businesses being urged to limit the amount of alcohol served at work parties to help prevent people from acting inappropriately towards other people. 

The results suggest a third of managers, 33% of female managers and 26% of male ones, have seen harassment or inappropriate behaviour at work parties. CMI chief executive Ann Francke said that while socialising with work colleagues is a “great team building opportunity”, managers should be cautious and that alcohol “doesn’t need to be the main event” at parties. 

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The CMI is a professional body focusing on management and leadership, and surveyed over 1,000 managers at the end of April 2023. Overall, two in five (42%) said work parties should be organised around activities which don’t involve alcohol - with younger people (16-34) more likely to say this. 

So we asked our readers if they feel like workplaces should cap the number of alcoholic drinks at office parties. This is what you had to say. 

Should the number of alcoholic drinks be capped at an office party? 

In regards to the question, we received a mixed response. Teresa St Catherine responded to our tweet by saying: “Yes! I work in HR”. She thinks there are too many risks when companies offer alcohol which include: “accidents on site of the event, damage to premises, people put in vulnerable positions causing risk and harm to themselves.” Since the employers are liable - it could be damaging to the company.

This sentiment is echoed by Jonathan Kleeman, Executive Group Sommelier, Wine and Beverage Director. He told NationalWorld that adults should be aware of their own limits and should work within them, expanding by saying: “If you treat people like children then that is how they will learn to behave.''

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However, another response disagreed. They said “Absolutely not” since employees are not being paid there - as most of the time they are in the evenings - so employers “shouldn’t also police how you have fun”. Nicola, another commenter, said that alcohol should be enjoyed in moderation. She said: “I think you guys all work so hard at home; if you get to have an office party, enjoy it (in moderation)”. 

NationalWorld readers had a mixed response to the question if office parties should have an alcohol capNationalWorld readers had a mixed response to the question if office parties should have an alcohol cap
NationalWorld readers had a mixed response to the question if office parties should have an alcohol cap

What the experts say

Martin Preston, addiction specialist and Founder of Private Rehab Clinic Delamere told NationalWorld that alcohol at corporate events is becoming more expected post-Covid-19, as a way of socialising or bonding with their colleagues who may be working remotely or in a hybrid set-up. 

However, Mr Preston said that employed adults are more likely to drink frequently than those who are unemployed, and that those in managerial or executive roles are more at risk due to stress: “Which can result in problematic drinking for many.”

He explains: “In theory, the premise of capping the number of drinks employees are able to consume at a work-related function seems sensible in order to reduce any alcohol-related incidents or inappropriate behaviour occurring.” He says that employers organising corporate social events could choose to distribute drink tickets among employees or just opt to serve only beer and wine. 

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However, knowing what employees have drunk before attending an event is not easy, and drinks caps also assume all employees and guests have a healthy relationship and attitude towards their drinking behaviour and how they control it. 

He explains: “When debating whether or not to cap the number of drinks allowed at an office party, companies must take into consideration the fact that some employees may be experiencing their own personal battles with alcohol addiction.” In these cases issues can become apparent during work events that include casual drinking too.  

Speaking to NationalWorld, Michaela Weaver, founder of The Alcohol Coach, says since Covid-19, more people are likely to drink due to habitual drinking, and these people are at risk in work situations when alcohol is free flowing. Since alcohol is a psychoactive drug, Ms Weaver explains that: “There is a high risk for employees to permanently tarnish their reputations, their own self-esteem and ultimately career progression.” 

She says that work cultures provide their own micro-social climate of values, when people drink too much they can demonstrate behaviour that doesn’t conform to the work cultural values, or very often their own. “This puts people at risk of being on the receiving or giving end of unacceptable behaviour in terms of abusive language, unsolicited feedback, and other forms of harassment” she elaborates. 

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To combat this, she suggests that companies should promote alcohol-free events for the staff. She says: “Alcohol-free alternatives should always be made available, and obvious, and not hidden at the back of a store cupboard.”

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