Boozing at work

Maybe I lead a sheltered working life, here in this corner of a city building, because I am having a great deal of trouble accepting a major study's findings about alcohol use at work. Dr Ken Pidd, the deputy director of Flinders University's National Centre for Education and Training on Addiction, found in a survey of 9800 workers that 9 per cent of them usually, and note the usually, use alcohol at work. Those who tipple at work only occasionally are not counted. So, one in 11 workers drinks alcohol at work as a matter of course!

Well, I don't know a single person who uses alcohol to help him or her through the working day, and, yes, that should be I don't know a single person who appears to use alcohol at work. I know a couple who go to the pub occasionally during a meal break, but, remember, the 9 per cent are those who "usually" consume alcohol at work.

The business lunch was a thinly disguised binge for business mates meeting on the pretext that getting drunk together was necessary for a business relationship. It used to be that alcohol use at work was almost de rigueur for the ambitious, especially those in sales and management. Almost always it was men, and usually the same men on the same day. Many men in sales and management were drunk in the name of business every weekday afternoon. But Paul Keating brought that taxpayer-subsidised swill to an end with the fringe benefits tax in 1985, probably lifting the average life expectancy of Australian men at the same time.

I have known many men, and one or two women, over the years who've kept a bottle in a locker or bag at work, but that seems to have come to an end, too. It may be that as the managers stayed sober of an afternoon, after 1985, they became less tolerant of workers who grew slurry and florid in the second half of their shift. OH&S and more tightly defined liabilities would have helped reduce the acceptability of swigging at work.

Have you noticed a new sobriety in the workplace? Or could it be that one in 11 workers is still on the grog?

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