Is It Time to End In-Office Drinks?

For me the worst part was the anxiety that hit the next morning. What did I say to my boss? Did I slur my words? Would I have said it sober? Working in PR in London in the 90s, every social event involved alcohol. Boozy lunches with clients, team meetings at the pub, in-office drinks to celebrate or commiserate. I had my own wine glass in my desk drawer.

Maggie Gallant at her office desk in the early 1990s
Yes, this is how we looked in the early 90s!

But riding the knife’s edge where a social lubricant can tip into a morning after shame spiral is no longer business as usual in today’s corporate culture. We need new ways for colleagues to bond and connect, and social events that aren’t dependent on alcohol.

Admittedly the corporate drinking culture wasn’t as ingrained here as it was in England. But I’ve worked in offices here recently where the bar cart literally comes to your cubicle. Where the refrigerator is stocked with wine and beer for Friday happy hour. Where food is a snack bag of chips. 

And yes, it can be fun to decompress after a big project or a tough week, but company organized drinking isn’t for everyone. It excludes people who don’t drink alcohol for health, religious reasons or personal presence. Others may feel a pressure to drink in order to fit in, or drink more than they should. Add to this the generation of Gen Zers who are normalizing sobriety.

But without alcohol, how do you encourage innovative thinking? Celebrate a big win? Bond and strengthen a team? Impress a new client? Certainly not yet another dozen cupcakes and a gallon of iced tea in the conference room.

When I suggest afternoon tea as an alternative, I can see my corporate clients wince at the thought of chintzy lace tablecloths and a distinctly Victorian vibe. I mean yes, I can do that if that’s your preference. But there’s so many other creative ways to bring a stylish corporate tea experience to your workplace. And so many good reasons for doing it.

Inclusive Approach

Unlike alcohol-centered events that marginalize non-drinkers, tea makes for an inclusive environment. Yes, some of your team may prefer coffee over tea but there’s no sense of social pressure to get you to drink tea, or social isolation if you don’t (unless you’re British!). Tea events held during work hours also mean that employees with caretaking responsibilities aren’t excluded.

Health and Wellness Focus

Tea definitely isn’t a cure-all, but it has proven health benefits. From antioxidants in green tea to the calming properties of herbal infusions there’s so many choices beyond PG Tips or Lipton (and no, there’s nothing wrong with those). Tea tastings and tea flights for example are engaging, participative and not limited by age, gender, or job title. For companies that prioritize employee well-being, it’s another way to promote a healthy workplace culture.

Don Draper from the TV show Mad Men was rarely seen without a drink and a cigarette.
Don’t be like Don
Reduced Risk and Liability

Serving alcohol at corporate events comes with inherent risks, including legal and liability issues related to employee behavior and alcohol consumption. It’s also a reflection of your corporate image and people are always watching (or more accurately, recording). Opting for tea minimizes these risks, enhances your reputation, and creates a safer environment for everyone.

Cultural Sensitivity

Tea’s rich history and cultural significance in many regions of the world makes it a neutral and universally appreciated choice. Serving teas that are synonymous with different countries and exploring their traditions and etiquette is a great icebreaker. And the absence of alcohol needn’t stifle creativity. The sensory experience of an office space transformed to an elegant tearoom can spark all kinds of conversations and ideas.

Teacup and saucer at a workstation
Making spreadsheets more bearable
Mindful Networking

That second glass of Prosecco might loosen the tongue but then that tongue might start spouting nonsense. In contrast to the often loud and chaotic atmosphere of alcohol-fueled events, the unhurried nature of tea and tea events encourages more meaningful networking and connections. The ones where you don’t wake up the next morning with ‘hangxiety’ over what you said.

Afternoon tea and tea events have become more popular than ever thanks to Bridgerton, Downton Abbey, The Crown, (and whatever period drama’s coming next). But they don’t have to be stuffy or pretentious. In the next post I’ll share some ideas for a modern corporate take on the traditional afternoon tea, and which occasions they work best for.

The Truly Terrific Tea Co. brings English and European-stye tea experiences to your workplace or chosen event space. We provide everything from simple tea selections and sweets to a full catered afternoon tea. 

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