Booze bad for business
Despite a light-hearted mood, office parties pose dangers that must be addressed, Anna KelseySugg writes.
Christmas work parties have an almost folkloric role in western culture. They also have a lot to answer for, from The Office- esque awkwardness, to the next day’s sore head and the ‘‘I wish I hadn’t said that’’.
While individuals are ultimately responsible for their own behaviour, it is the employer’s responsibility to ensure that the workplace has a good work-function policy. The policy should cover the Christmas party as well as all other work functions or meetings where alcohol is present because, as occupational physician Michael Baynes pointed out, ‘‘in terms of exposure you have a lot more work meetings than Christmas parties’’.
A bottle of wine or two may sit beside the intention to do serious business. But the combination can have disastrous effects, and it can lead to a lot more than embarrassment the next day. Work functions – and not just the Christmas-time ones – can involve harassment, abuse, general offensive or nuisance behaviour, employees driving home drunk, trips and falls, and ineffective business decisions.
You mightn’t think about business deals being done over a three-hour lunch as an occupational health and safety issue, but, Baynes said, ‘‘decisions can be made from a financial point of view, or about the hiring of contractors for example, which may impact on some employees down the line being at risk. A bad decision can mean millions of dollars lost in a company, which negatively impacts upon shareholders. So the idea of alcohol at business meetings is something that has to be carefully controlled’’.
A good work-function policy should stipulate that one person, usually a senior employee, be present – and sober – throughout the function to control any inappropriate behaviour.
‘‘It gets down to management, ‘‘ said Baynes, who has worked internationally with both small and large companies to develop their drug, alcohol and impairment policies.
‘‘Someone to tap people on the shoulder and say: ‘You’ve had enough’.’’