Drinking responsibly: The changing face of work events

Do you feel uncomfortable at work events where there seems to be an expectation to drink? In a recent blog post, I looked at the rise of the sober curious movement and "damp drinking". These previously little-known terms are creeping into our vocabulary. Gen-Z in particular are growing up as sober curious young people who are less likely to consume large amounts of alcohol on a night out. So, is it still acceptable to drink alcohol at a work event? If so, how can you make sure you drink responsibly and return home with your dignity intact? Lastly, we'll take a look at what alcohol-free options you should be offering if you're in charge of organising a work event. Whether that means choosing a bar with great non-alcoholic options or bringing luxury dealcoholized wines into the office for those spontaneous celebrations.


Is it acceptable to drink alcohol at a work event?


According to Snack Nation's blog about drinking at work, the office drinking culture was at its peak in the 1950s and 60s in a male-dominated era. So, why do many of us still feel pressured into drinking at work social events today?  The reality is that laissez-faire attitudes have led to the odd lunchtime tipple creeping back in. So, by the time we're leaving work it's almost expected that we'll join our colleagues in a glass of something. But as employees, we have rights. Including the right to choose whether or not to join in with the drinking culture.


We're not saying that booze needs to be avoided at all costs. However, if you're getting drinks to increase team bonding, you might be doing exactly the opposite. After all, would you really feel like a valued team member if everyone was putting pressure on you to do something you didn't feel comfortable with?


So, whether or not to consume alcohol has to, first and foremost, be personal choice. That said, if you are aware that a colleague is feeling uncomfortable, you may wish to join them in abstention. That doesn't mean drawing attention to it or making a big fuss about not having a drink. Rather, it means going to the bar and ordering something alcohol-free for you both.


It's not always necessary to confront people or make a stand to show your support to someone who is struggling. Sitting with them, accepting their decision and joining them if it feels like the right thing to do can be enough. However, if the rest of the team are giving you or a colleague a hard time about not drinking, it might be time to speak up.


Bottle of alcohol-free Feragaia Scottish Distilled spirit pictured next to a clear non-alcoholic cocktail in a tall glass garnished with fruit on a white surface with dark background


How to drink responsibly at work functions


If you do decide to have a drink at a work function, there are a few simple rules that will make sure you manage remain professional.

  1. Stick to beer, shandy or long drinks: Think high volume, low alcohol content. Beer averages around 4-6%, going for half lemonade to make it a shandy halves the amount you consume. If you prefer spirits, don't worry! Simply opt for a long drink. A single gin with plenty of tonic, a small rum with plenty of coke or a simple spritz will make sure you don't get through your drinks too fast.
  2. Count! It may sound simple, but you probably know how many is too many. So, keep a tally of the number of drinks you've had, then move on to something non-alcoholic, or simply skip the next few rounds until it's time to go.
  3. Eating isn't cheating! Make sure you're not drinking on an empty stomach. You'll get drunk more slowly, your blood alcohol levels won't get so high and you'll find it much easier to remain in control.
  4. Keep your own counsel: Never pressure anyone else into drinking.
  5. Don't drive: If you're drinking, you're not driving and vice versa. There really should be no ifs, buts or maybes in this scenario. 
  6. Start and end with an alcohol-free drink: This is a very simple way to cut your intake. Whether you hydrate with a glass of water to start with or enjoy a non-alcoholic cocktail, you'll find it a lot easier to avoid getting drunk if you start one drink behind everybody else. Ending with something non-alcoholic can remind you not to tip over the edge into a level of intoxication that wouldn't be appropriate for work.


Small group of people on a beach enjoying a picnic in the late afternoon sunshine with cliffs behind and water on the left of the photo with picnic goers consuming alcohol free drinks


What alcohol-free drinks should you be offering as a responsible employer?


So, it's your job to organise the office function. Should you be offering alcohol-free alternatives? Absolutely! The chances are, some of your employees won't be able to drink for cultural or medical reasons. Others might be driving or pregnant. And then of course, there are those who simply don't drink or won't fancy it. Should they be stuck with fizzy pop while everyone else is celebrating with a glass of fizz? Absolutely not.


Non-alcoholic options are going to depend on what you're serving in terms of alcohol. So, let's start in the bar. The chances are, you're reading this because you're planning a work function somewhere in Switzerland. The good news is, VE Refinery drinks are stocked in bars all over the country. Head to our interactive map to find out where you will find our luxury alcohol-free drinks. The chances are there's somewhere near you. So, that's a great place to start! Give them a call before you go to see which of our drinks they stock.


Celebrating in the office or at a venue where you source your own drinks? Here are a few non-alcoholic drink-swap ideas.