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Is it OK to drink alcohol during your lunch break?

Estimated reading time: 2 mins

Having an alcoholic drink at lunchtime was commonplace, in the last century. It has fallen out of favor over recent years, but still happens. Is it acceptable?

If there is no written policy about it, then the answer is it depends.

Depends on what though?

There are some obvious dependencies:

  • You operate industrial machinery – then it’s a big NO.
  • You drive to and from work – then it’s a big NO.
  • A mistake could cost you, your employer, or clients dearly – then it’s a NO.
  • You work with the public – then it’s a NO.

If the above doesn’t apply to you, what then?

It’s a judgment call

In client meetings, it might be expected of you to join in and have a glass of something. Some people won’t take no for an answer. But it is still your decision – and has to be.

I meet clients regularly, and we often seek out local pubs to meet in a relaxed atmosphere. On these occasions, if I am working from my office, I will walk to work. A pint of beer with a client is a great way to break down any unnecessary formality and set the scene for a productive meeting, especially if my client shares my taste for a tasty craft beer. It creates a basis of relatedness and a reason to discuss something interesting and personal. This is my choice.

Drinking alcohol is probably going to have an effect on you. If you’re adept at coping with this, then it might be not a problem. Like I do, you can make it not a problem, providing you know your limits. One beer or glass of wine is probably enough.

If I know that a drink over lunch is planned, I get the critical stuff out of the way in the morning, and avoid anything important or risky in the afternoon. Even though I am not planning on getting drunk, I don’t assume that I am going to be at my sharpest in the afternoon.

And remember, you’re on the clock. You’re being paid to do a job, so if a drink is going to impair you in anyway, think very carefully before raising your elbow upwards!

Think about how it reflects on you

Drinking, even when not drunk or feeling any effect, can reflect on how others perceive you. The professional consequences might not even be noticeable right away – but longer lasting reputational damage could result if your drinking goes unchecked, even if it is unjustified or plain gossip.

The pressure

I understand how peer-pressure can be persuasive. Point is to recognize it is happening, and make a decision based on what is good for you. Often, co-workers or clients apply the pressure only to justify their own thirst, or need, for another drink. And then sometimes, it’s just OK to go with the flow.

Be conscious and cognizant!

Keep it safe and fun

A drink at lunch should just be that – fun. If it isn’t fun, then don’t do it. Simple.

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This post is part 9 of 12 in the series Getting to Know Colleagues

About the author /


Simon is a creative and passionate business leader dedicated to having fun in the pursuit of high performance and personal development. He is co-founder of Applied Change, a Business Change consultancy based in the UK. Simon is also an Ambassador for Gloucestershire business. Simon is an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Professional Development.

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