After-work drinks can boost business, says study

By Lydia Anderson

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Alcohol supplied by the boss promotes team bonding, researchers say. Photo / Thinkstock
Alcohol supplied by the boss promotes team bonding, researchers say. Photo / Thinkstock

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

But local hospitality workers often miss out on Friday after work drinks because they are busy serving the masses, a Napier bar manager says.

"On a Friday night every staff member we have is rostered on, so there's actually no such thing in our industry," said The Station general manager David Perreaux.

A Victoria University study examined influences on young people's drinking habits in a white-collar environment. It found laying on free alcohol bought credit for bosses, who were seen as being a "good mate" for buying staff drinks, with workers feeling "compelled to work harder during ordinary work time".

Mr Perreaux said he preferred to put on alternate social activities for his staff, rather than drinks.

Workplaces were under more pressure from industry bodies to be responsible hosts for their staff, for instance providing food if serving alcohol on site, he said.

"It's for the right reasons too and it's all about keeping everyone safe.

"I actually think it's a great thing."

Younger patrons enjoying an after-work beer were "a heck of a lot more" responsible with their drinking than a couple of decades ago, he said.

Study authors master's graduate Benjamin Walker and management school senior lecturer Todd Bridgman conducted in-depth interviews with employees at an un-named 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," he said.

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 towards worker productivity.

A Service and Food Workers Union spokeswoman 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.

Dr 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

- Hawkes Bay Today

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