Last Updated on February 15, 2021
Ever feel like reaching for a glass of wine during a stressful workday? While this might normally be impossible, COVID-19 has meant more and more people are working remotely. And studies suggest many of them may be drinking while working from home.
In fact, one survey of 1,300 home workers1 found that as many as 9 out of 10 admitted to drinking on the job. Whether it’s a pint with lunch, or an entire bottle throughout their shift, it’s clear that isolation is tempting many people to drink during the workday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded our stress at work and at home—so it’s not surprising that some people are drinking on the job to cope. But, as you might expect, WFH drinking can have significant consequences for your health and your career. Here’s what you need to know about day-drinking on the job—and how you can cut back.
Are People Really Drinking More During COVID-19?
Since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s clear that alcohol use among Americans has been increasing. Alcohol sales rose by 55 percent2 in March 2020, compared with the same sales period in 2019. And while this might have simply been people stocking up for quarantine, a study published in late 20203 confirmed that people have been drinking more during the pandemic.
There are many factors at play here: Increased stress, anxiety, depression, isolation, and plain-old boredom all probably play a role. There is a strong link between alcohol use and mental health issues, and it’s likely that some people are self-medicating to manage difficult emotions. It’s also likely that people are developing different drinking habits from spending so much time alone.
Drinking During the Workweek
One big sign of this shift is an increase in weekday drinking. According to BACtrack data4, drinking decreased by 51 percent on weekends, but increased by 47 percent during the workweek at the start of the pandemic.
This shift makes logical sense considering pandemic-era restrictions. For many, drinking is a social activity that takes place at a bar or club on the weekends. But with local watering holes remaining closed due to COVID-19, such events have become more rare. Meanwhile, increased boredom and isolation at home may make a glass of wine in the evening—or even during the workday—more appealing.
There may also be a link between increased work stress and alcohol consumption. While some people have lost employment during COVID-19 (which is a whole other issue), others may be working more, or having a harder time “switching off” from work due to working in the house. And studies show that longer work hours5 in general are a risk factor for alcohol abuse.
Consequences of Drinking on the Job
The occasional after-work Zoom “cocktail party” probably won’t kill you—nor will having a single glass of wine to “wind down” in the evening. But drinking on the job could have serious consequences for your health and career.
For starters, if you’re drinking during the workday, you might be drinking more overall. Exceeding a moderate drinking level (one standard drink per day for women; two standard drinks per day for men) raises your risk of long-term health problems, such as liver disease.
But even if you aren’t drinking excessively, drinking while working remotely can be harmful. Alcohol impairs judgment6, meaning it could negatively impact the quality of your work. Over time, employers may notice—and they would be justified in terminating your employment for this reason. A pattern of day-drinking could also make it harder to get a new job.
It’s important to note, however, that while many employers have provisions that allow them to fire you for substance abuse issues, federal law also requires them to give you time off to seek treatment.
Read More: How Alcohol Use Can Impact Your Career
When to Worry About Drinking While Working From Home
If you’ve been drinking while working from home during COVID-19, you clearly aren’t the only one. However, there are many ways in which this can put your health and your job performance at risk. If you find that you’re having a hard time controlling this habit, or that it’s negatively affecting your work, there’s no shame in looking for some support.
Programs like Ria Health can help you cut back or quit drinking from home. You don’t need to identify as an alcoholic, or put your life on hold. Best of all, you can get coaching, anti-craving medications, expert medical advice and more, all through a smartphone app.