Drinks after work pushes staff to produce - study

By Lydia Anderson

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An after-work tipple with colleagues can help strengthen workplace relationships among workers and may even be good for business, research suggests.

The Victoria University study has examined influences on people's drinking habits in a white-collar environment and found laying on free alcohol bought "credit" for bosses, who were seen as being a "good mate" for buying staff drinks - but it also meant workers could feel "compelled to work harder during ordinary work time".

However, First Union retail organiser Kirstin Miller says it is rare for bosses to put on free staff drinks in the Tauranga retail sector.

"I think the most they do is a morning tea shout every now and then."

Miss Miller said anything social outside of work that built up team morale would be good for workplace culture.

"It doesn't necessarily have to be drinks after work," she said.

"There's probably not enough of that team-building type of stuff.

"I think [team building] can definitely help things within the workplace - there's too many workplaces at the moment that are really divided."

Study authors master's graduate Benjamin Walker and management school senior lecturer Todd Bridgman conducted in-depth interviews with employees at an unnamed professional services organisation in Wellington.

Mr Walker was surprised to discover the extent to which alcohol featured in the workplace.

"Alcohol is commonly used to facilitate team bonding and for presenting a friendly, informal image when networking with clients.

"It's the way the organisation celebrates success, as well as the way new employees are inducted into the organisation."

The researchers found that social events where alcohol was involved could even be a deliberate form of managerial control.

"Through positive reinforcement using events involving alcohol, [the organisation] succeeded in prompting workers to work harder," the study said.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association said "Friday night drinks" were common practice for many businesses.

"Having staff congregate and network outside their usual connections within an organisation can be very good for staff morale and help with team building," spokesman Gilbert Peterson said.

This helped keep people engaged in the business and contributed toward worker productivity.

However, a Service and Food Workers Union spokesman said their members did not enjoy such workplace benefits, as most were hospital cleaners or rest home workers. Workplace drinks culture was probably more widespread in the corporate sector or government departments, she said.

Andrew Hearn, of the Health Promotion Agency, said the research provided interesting insights into the dynamic of alcohol and the workplace, and highlighted unintended effects on work of alcohol use.

"Expectations of the job, such as not turning up with a hangover, means that employees 'save up' their drinking until the weekend," he said.

The study was published in the International Journal of Drug Policy.

additional reporting Teuila Fuatai

- Bay of Plenty Times

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