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Is the company happy hour outdated for the holidays?

Happy hour is designed to bond teams and offer a perk, but the design is outdated to benefit few workers – let’s just get rid of the practice.

Company happy hour representing work-life balance

Let’s tackle this tradition in the office – the happy hour. Wondering if your clients or team members really care about them? Do they even help?

Why do we even have happy hour?

Happy hour is a tradition that dates back to the early 20th century and the United States Navy. It was originally a weekly entertainment created to alleviate boredom on the U.S.S. Arkansas when sailors were at sea. The practice became popular in the Navy, but over time, the emphasis changed from entertainment to drinking.

As drinking became less stigmatized after prohibition, employees began drinking at work and after work. Although happy hours declined in the 1970s and beyond, there was a resurgence in the 2000s.

Why do offices hold happy hour?

Hosting a happy hour is thought to help a team develop positive relationships and encourage team engagement and productivity. Drink o’clock can be a time of celebration to help everyone feel good about the work they’re doing. Additionally, it can be a way to invite clients into your office in a casual setting.

Your team members can interact with each other outside of the stress of work. It sounds pretty innocent, just getting together at the end of the workday at a local pub or bar, but it comes with a lot of issues.

Is it time to nix the work happy hour?

Happy hour can come with a lot of pressure for team members. Some people believe they have to attend in order to maintain their status at the brokerage, because skipping out can be seen as not being a team player, and many who don’t show up to the “optional” happy hours are also the ones who didn’t get to schmooze and thereby are not the ones who get the best leads or the best treatment.

This disproportionately hurts women, who stereotypically still have the majority of caregiving tasks in the family and can’t stay out drinking on weeknights.

Transportation issues or flexible schedules don’t lend themselves well to the traditional happy hour after work. And don’t forget the drinking atmosphere doesn’t appeal to everyone. There are many religious, cultural, medical, addiction recovery, and personal reasons for people to avoid alcohol and happy hour functions.

This doesn’t even scratch the surface of liability issues. Can your business risk an accident by a team member who went to happy hour and was a little too buzzed when they left?

While we’re rethinking company traditions in the post-pandemic era, let’s think about how to get team members engaged safely and more inclusively.

Maybe this outdated practice isn’t the best way to build your team anymore.

Dawn Brotherton is a Sr. Staff Writer at The American Genius with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. She is an experienced business writer with over 10 years of experience in SEO and content creation. Since 2017, she has earned $60K+ in grant writing for a local community center, which assists disadvantaged adults in the area.

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