We are lucky to be living and working in a time when companies are going to pretty impressive lengths to help fortify office culture and generate a positive work dynamic. Sure, not every office has leadership that places importance on how their team members are feeling and proactively tries to improve the general mood of the office, but this is slowly becoming the new normal. One of my favorite materializations of “proactive” approach is when companies take a note from Mad Men and pay for a sensible in-office happy hour.
Again, sorry if you’re not one of the growing minority of workers that gets to drink at work on your boss’ dime. For the rest of us, there are some things we need to keep in mind before we start ordering rounds. It sounds great in theory, and most likely yields benefits for people who take part in boozing with their co-workers in a controlled way, but there are some pitfalls to be aware of especially if you’re the cubical cultural liaison in charge of planning these sorts of things.
1. Remember why you’re doing this
Somewhere around your 3rd lagerita with Janice from accounting it may get a little tricky to remember the real reason you’re “socializing” with your colleagues. It’s totally awesome to get to relax a little in an office setting but you are doing so on the presumption that you will bond with co-workers and let off a little steam. It’s not a party, it’s the social equivalent of being given a company credit card. Yes you can use it to buy clients dinner, not because it’s fun but because it’s good for the company’s bottom line in the long-run. Take away? Stay in work mode.
2. Easy there….
Sticking to beer and wine tends to be good for portion control, cost, and tends to go down better with finger food. Side note: eat something. Drinking on an empty stomach is asking for trouble in any situation but especially when surrounded by work mates. Drink a glass of water between every drink. Your kidneys and the guy in HR will thank you later – believe me.
3. Shoot for a little structure
Drinking games might not sound like the best idea for this kind of setting, but you’d be surprised at how fun a game of trivia can be. See how the idea goes over with the team and think about separating into groups that mix departments and specialties to help encourage people to branch out a bit. Having an activity sounds a little lame, but it can be a life saver for the office wallflowers who want to participate but aren’t great at it.
4. Think outside just your office
Opening the happy hour up to the neighboring offices could be great for networking not to mention give you a chance to talk to that fox you always share the elevator with. This also tends to steer the conversation away from office gossip and unproductive complaining.
5. Time limits
It’s a “happy hour” – not a happy bender or happy all-nighter. Hopefully the email invitation put clear limits on the time but you should put limits on your own participation too either way. There is no need to close the bar down with people from work. The longer you are there, and the more you drink, the more likely it is that you will over-share or do something your sober professional self never would. Schedule plans with friends for about 2 and 1/2 hours after the thing at the office gets started. You’ll be more likely to leave on a good note and seem more genuine when you do.
Not everything goes well with alcohol. It will take more than a great mixer to take the burn out of swallowing that pink slip if you end up being that guy (writer’s note: women are fully capable of being “that guy”) at the office happy hour. Be smart about office happy hours, have a good time, and connect with the people you work with appropriately.