Booze bad for busi­ness

De­spite a light-hearted mood, of­fice par­ties pose dan­gers that must be ad­dressed, Anna KelseySugg writes.

South Waikato News - - NEWS -

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’.’’

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