Is the lunchtime pint dead in the water?

Is it acceptable to drink alcohol in work hours any longer? Are the days of the lunchtime pint dead in the water? BLM went to find out more. 

In February, Lloyd’s of London announced a ban on staff drinking alcohol between 9am and 5pm.

If staff break this rule, they could be sacked for gross misconduct. However, this does not apply to insurance brokers and underwriters in the same building.

This begs the question; is it acceptable to drink during working hours any longer? A Think Tank report last year found that 40% of British employees believe drinking is an important part of their work culture.

The same report found that half of young employees think that by not joining in with work drinking, they can’t fit in socially with their colleagues.

In the finance sector, daytime drinking has long been a run-of-the-mill occurrence with deals often being struck over a couple of pints. There is the suggestion by some that the pub or bar is where the majority of deals are done.

An insider at Lloyd’s told the Financial Times: “There is still a short hours and long lunch culture in some places and there are stories of brokers sitting in pubs handing out contracts like Jabba the Hutt.”

If this is the case, can much be done to change this?

Those that embrace the drinking culture at work see it as an integral part that helps establish relationships. In certain industries, networking is at the heart of business. This goes hand in hand with social occasions, where alcohol is almost a necessity.

Many find that a couple of drinks allows them to relax and have confidence when talking to others. There is also the enjoyment aspect of drinking but should this be part of the working environment?

Everybody wants to enjoy their job and have fun sometimes but can it go too far? As well as the health risks that drinking can cause, many people cannot or choose not to drink.

Tim Davies, Head Colliers International’s Bristol office, explains that in commercial property, having a few drinks can help to build relationship.

He comments: “Meeting for lunch during working hours and drinking a beer or two is an accepted part of our business way of life”.

There is the expectation that socialising and networking are an integral part of building a career.

Tim comments: “I can remember when I first started working in commercial property, being hauled in by the senior partner to explain my expenses. He castigated me for not spending enough, as in his view it indicated that I wasn’t doing enough to get out and meet other young surveyors. These meetings are not just about socialising – they are about developing relationships and creating opportunities.”

However, Tim believes that the long lunches of old are declining with people more aware of health issues and drink driving.

Under the influence 

Paul Brown, CEO at Mail Handling International, questions why we find people making important decisions when under the influence of alcohol more acceptable than those operating machinery.

He comments: “I guess the fundamental question is; when is work working? Are you being paid for good judgement, mental or physical performance? Do we want our pensions to be invested by a stock broker or fund manager who has a blinding hangover or is drunk or high?

“Is there some unacceptable elitism that says ‘office professionals’ can drink and ‘warehouse staff cannot’? It is outdated to think that you can smoke at your desk, be racist or sexist in the workplace. Drinking at work is no longer commercially and culturally acceptable.”

Paul still notes that events such as conferences and awards dinners build relationships and are not the place for an alcohol ban. However, these are also not where important negotiations should take place.