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Workplace Drinking: It's Back!


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Bloomberg is reporting that drinking at work is making a big comeback, especially in Silicon Valley. Apparently Yelp and Twitter are leading the charge:

At Yelp Inc.’s San Francisco headquarters, a keg refrigerator provides a never-ending supply of beer to employees, letting them drink as much as they like.

They just have to be comfortable with full disclosure: Workers badge in to an iPad application attached to the keg that records every ounce they drink.

“If you’re at the top of the leader board consistently, I don’t know if that’s a place that you’d want to be,” said Eric Singley, director of Yelp consumer and mobile products. “Luckily, that hasn’t really even been an issue.”

"We're all adults here," said one person standing in the line at the keg.

Chris Amirault

eG Ethics Signatory

Sir Luscious got gator belts and patty melts

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When I worked in Silicon Valley, there was a lot more than drinking going on at work.

And i worked at places that actually produced things. Those assembly lines making chips, boards, and yes, even pinball machines, were, shall we say, amped up.

If Yelp and Twitter think that drinking beer all day is going to make their employees more productive, they've got another thing coming.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I've worked at more than a few places where it was not at all uncommon to have beer/wine/liquor in the office fridge. At one place, my department shared a kitchen with the CEO, and it was very common to come in and find the garbage filled with liquor bottles after the CEO spent the evening entertaining people in his office. This was all in high-tech, if it matters.

And nowadays, we always have a healthy selection of beer/wine/liquor around. Hard not to, when you work from home!

Edited by abadoozy (log)
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Of course, maybe these office people have been watching too many episodes of Mad Men. If it's good enough for Don Draper...

I would imagine the insurers of these companies would frown upon the company-sponsored drinking at work.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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About 20 years ago, I was a journalist for a weekly publication just outside of DC with Friday night deadlines. We had dinner served on Thursday and Friday nights, and the fridge on those nights (including the vegetable bins) was stocked with good beer. There didn't seem to be any issue with people going too far--not surprising given the competing incentive of the deadline (& getting home as early as possible on Friday nights). If I had to guess, I'd bet that has stopped--when I worked there, it was a family-owned company (best benefits I ever had, not even counting the beer), but right about the time I was leaving, it was bought out by a huge international media conglomerate.

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Interesting legal implications in litigation happy USA. Employee openly drinks at work with full support of company; gets in car; drives home impaired;... You can fill in the rest.

Personally, even one beer gives you boozy breath. And I hate talking to someone with boozy breath when I don't have boozy breath and am stone cold sober.

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I think there is a certain amount of "risk/reward" involved with giving the crew a beer after a long difficult shift, a celebration of a job well done. Letting my guys drink beer all shift long would not only take the "carrot" away but their production and execution would be severely impaired. I deeply believe in creating a tight knit group. Sharing a beer or two at the end of a long shift helps strengthen that, but I do not see the benefit of having an "open bar" policy for the entire shift.

Edited by Jeffery C (log)
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What do you think the reward is in the office pool for the first person who hacks that iPad app?

Is there a point of diminishing returns for hacking while inebriated? Brings back images of Hugh Jackman in Swordfish, drunk and being serviced while forced to hack a website to keep from being shot.

Edited by Jeffery C (log)
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There is most certainly a point of diminishing returns for working while inebriated. It's an awful lot like the point of diminishing returns for working while tired. One of our management tools has a big warning on every page not to use it when you're tired, because you can't undo changes that it makes.

On the other hand, I know that there's a lot of work that gets done in the evening, sipping a beer or a bourbon and soda. It's mostly documentation, or monitoring patch runs or paperwork. The developers/admins I've seen doing it typically consume far less than a unit of alcohol per hour, and routinely "neglect" their drink when they get absorbed in what they're doing, only to eventually toss the rest of it.

The IT developers I've worked with work all hours. So there will be a week of nights that you work until 2am, and then a code push at 9am. And you hang out with your fingers and toes and everything else crossed that you aren't about to discover some undocumented difference between dev and test or test and production. After an hour of testing, you might knock back a few celebratory beers at 10am, soak up some sunshine outside, attempt to build a stirling engine out of random items found in the break room or make yourself a massively over-sugared coffee concoction. Then you spend the rest of the day doing things that require less thought.

I don't know, I think that I see monitored and otherwise unrestricted access to alcohol during the day as more a testament to a culture that expects you to live your life in the office than anything else. My husband recently applied for a job with a startup. I looked at their benefits page and said. "They're offering you free breakfast, lunch and dinner. They're going to do your laundry for you and have an in-office gym. That translates to 'We expect you to be at the office from breakfast until after dinner. And we expect you not to have time to do your own laundry or visit your gym when it's open.' You will live at this startup until they go public or fail to make funding. Is that really what you want?" Like it or not, that is usually the nature of a startup. And people who thrive in the pressure-cooker nature of a startup (in my experience) aren't the type to try to work sloshed, because they'd be embarrassed to have their coworkers see shoddy code.

Do I think that alcohol-access makes people better than they would be without? Heck no. But it's hard keeping IT talent in the bay area right now. And if a beer keg keeps employees happy without noticeably reducing the quality of their work? I can see why they'd do it.

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I drink at work every day. Then again, when *I* drink at work, it's called "quality assurance." :biggrin:

Then again, the most I'll drink in a given work day is about 16 ounces of beer -- anywhere from 4% to 9.5%, depending on what's fermenting, aging or being packaged.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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The boyfriend works for a digital ad shop with a very hip office in a trendy location. Everyone there fancy's themselves to be hipsters, and there's a culture of, we're better than you because we work for ____. He owns too many coffee mugs, jackets, tee shirts, messenger bags, and gizmos with his company branding on them to even count. So of course, in their trendy office that looks like a Chipotle with the exposed ductwork, intentionally raw brick, and cavernously high ceilings, they're going to have beer on tap. And a rooftop patio for drinking said beer. And Jagermeister machines, for ice cold Jager shots at any time, strategically placed among the half height cubicles. And bloody mary breakfasts every payday. And company sponsored drunken outings.

ElaineK has it about right. They do play hard. But they also work hard. The boyfriend has disappeared into that job for several months at a time during what is known as a "death march", where I see him only when he crawls into bed at 2am to sleep 4 hours and go right back. I have no doubt that the free availability of alcohol and a culture that seemingly encourages having a beer while you puzzle over how best to implement a piece of code is a necessity, to keep people coming back for more punishment.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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I have no doubt that the free availability of alcohol and a culture that seemingly encourages having a beer while you puzzle over how best to implement a piece of code is a necessity, to keep people coming back for more punishment.

As opposed to the fact that they have a job?

That's quite a rationalization.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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I've always worked in offices that had beer/wine/liquor in the fridge. It may be related to always working at start-ups. While there was never a memo about it, there's usually an unspoken rule about not start drinking till the afternoon. I know I'd feel weird drinking at 11am at the office.

Just now, I'm staring at two scotch bottles on top of our mini-fridge.

nakedsushi.net (not so much sushi, and not exactly naked)
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I work in finance in an office with a pretty strong wine culture. We have a cupboard full of wine and a fridge with plenty of beer (as well as soft drinks). There are also higher-rated wines kept separately for boardroom functions. Unspoken rules are big around here and I've only seen a bottle opened on a weekday a handful of times and even then only when ordering in dinner. Wine o'clock is usually sometime after 4pm on a Friday and people either drink socially in the common area or have a glass at their desks if still working. It's considered polite to at least stop by to say hello on the way out of the office for the weekend, even if you're not having a drink.

A glass or two of wine or beer with lunch (off premises) is perfectly acceptable.

In my only hospitality job here staff drinks were a nightly occurence, with staff given 2 drinks each at the end of every shift - we usually had them after cleanup. I vaguely recall reading a few years ago that Tetsuya Wakuda was sued for encouraging a culture of alcohol which lead to one of his staff becoming an alcoholic. I don't know what the outcome was, but I wonder if it affected staff drink policies at many places.

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I've worked at a software company here in Seattle for 10 years and we've gone through different phases of alcohol in the office. When we were much smaller, we had a bar in the office and once or twice a week, sometime after 5, someone would make martinis for a handfull of people. People might work for another hour or so but then it would turn social. Every once in awhile it would go late. It was never a problem - nobody went to the bar before 5 unless maybe it was a friday and we had finished a big milestone or something - until one guy and girl started meeting at the bar everyday at 5 for a glass or two of wine,. It didn't help that one of them was married. After a few weeks, they stopped doing that and I'm pretty sure somebody said something,

On a move to a new office, we lost the bar.

When we were purchased by a much larger company, we got a handbook that says no alcohol allowed, but we kept our smaller culture. We bring in art from the Seattle Art Museum and we have an "art-walk" once every few months where we break out beer, wine and food. Some offices also have fridges with wine/beer and it isn't uncommon to see someone with a beer on a friday at around 4 or 5.

I imagine that at Yelp, nobody is partaking in the beer until after 4pm. I don't imagine it does your career any good to be seen with a beer at 2pm or drunk at work.

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I moved from a government contractor where, if you brought in a bottle of wine for someone who had performed a favor or a home brew for someone to try, you had to go out in the parking lot to make the transfer upon threat of termination. They did have an auditorium building that was privately owned and alcohol was allowed with very strict restrictions - especially on how it was paid for.

At my current employment no one drinks during the week but my we have a Friday after work beer club where we rotate through different beers and rank them on taste and on 'wank' (a factor more or less related to the degree of pretentiousness of the bottle and label design and text). It is run mainly by the young computer wonkies and discussion of work is generally frowned upon, although jerking managers' chain is encouraged when they show up. The beer costs $3.00 (reasonable by Australian standards) and people drink at the most 2. At the end of the year profits went into personalized stubby holders and an evening of lawn bowling.

If I were running a company I doubt I would provide free alcohol with no bartender - that's asking for a lawsuit from someone's next of kin. I think you could do as much or more for morale through a stock of fruit juice and power drinks (and a good espresso machine).

I know my own productivity would go down with even one drink during the day but IMO societies tend to do better when moderate drinking is supported in the appropriate situations rather than developing a binge culture.

It's almost never bad to feed someone.

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I have worked at just one tech companies that provided free drinks, and I loved it. We rarely ever started with the drinks before 2 or 3, and usually only got REALLY inebriated when doing a build that requires us to monitor things late into the night. Not sure if its related but that was definitely the tightest team of programmers I have worked with.

Also:

http://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/ballmer_peak.png

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I work at a restaurant where we are expected to have one drink a day, and I think many people do. We recently instituted payroll deductions for the end user tax we would pay on a shift drink. I get screwed on it because I usually only have 1 or 2 shift drinks a month, but a deduction is made for me five days a week. When I mentioned that to the GM, he said I'd better start drinking more. Funny how the restaurant industry is expected to drink, not just allowed.

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in the '90s i worked for a software company in france, each lunchtime everybody went to the local cafeteria and would drink around a liter of wine each. I followed suit and would spend the first hour after lunch with my head on the table. Lunch started at midday for 1.45 hours. In the end i gave up the wine at lunch but made up for it during the evening

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I have no doubt that the free availability of alcohol and a culture that seemingly encourages having a beer while you puzzle over how best to implement a piece of code is a necessity, to keep people coming back for more punishment.

As opposed to the fact that they have a job?

That's quite a rationalization.

LOL. I more meant that this company has to try very hard to be a hip, awesome place to work, because sooner or later, all the programmer types are going to end up working stretches of 90+ hour weeks. Most of those guys could easily move to khaki and tie, 9 to 5 suburban tech job for about the same pay - but they'd rather put up with the death marches and have the cool culture, which includes having a beer on tap on the rooftop patio at 1pm if they want. I guess that was my cynical way of pointing out that, while it looks likes a perk, it is most certainly a carrot.

"Nothing you could cook will ever be as good as the $2.99 all-you-can-eat pizza buffet." - my EX (wonder why he's an ex?)

My eGfoodblog: My corner of the Midwest

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