Drinking While Working From Home: When Is It a Problem?

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Working from home has become much more prevalent over the past couple of years. And although it started with COVID-19 restrictions in many cases, it has led to a permanent change in how we work.

Working remotely from the comfort of home brings certain advantages—including the freedom to crack open a beer without anyone noticing. And this is more common than you may think. In fact, in one survey of 1,300 home workers, as many as 9 out of 10 people admitted to drinking on the job.

Whether it’s a drink with lunch, or an entire bottle throughout the workday, it is apparent that isolation is tempting many people to drink while working from home. And as you may suspect, there are pitfalls.

Let’s explore the downsides of work from home drinking, and how you can cut back if you notice it becoming a pattern.

Why More People Are Working From Home

cocktail with laptop on table
Photo by Lahiru Maramba on Unsplash

Months after many employers shut their doors and sent staff home to work during the pandemic, they found that it actually worked quite well! According to a Pew Research study, 54 percent of employed adults who are able to fulfill their work responsibilities from home say that they’d like to continue to do so, all or most of the time, when the pandemic passes.

People noticed that the flexibility of working hours led to reduced stress around factors like school drop off, day care issues, car trouble, appointments, and the myriad other complications that could make one late to or absent from the office.

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Why Is There Temptation To Drink When Working From Home?

Let’s face it: the home environment is going to be more laid back than the office environment. Unless you have to be on a Zoom call, you can wear pajamas all day if you want to. You are free to grab a snack or a drink—including an alcoholic beverage—at any time.

Being confined to the same surroundings day after day blurs the boundaries between work and leisure. There is less structure and supervision—no boss looking over your shoulder to see if you are shopping online.

And although many claim to prefer it this way, some miss the social interaction of the workplace, and feel isolated, lonely, lost, and bored. Drinking may be a way to cope with those uncomfortable emotions.

The Impact Of Drinking While Working from Home

Work from home drinking can impact your career in many ways. Having a drink at mealtime isn’t likely to hurt you. But heavy consumption can make it difficult to function, and can ultimately place your job in jeopardy.

This affects freelance workers as well. Being your own boss takes a great deal of self-discipline, and the success of your business is completely based on your ability to obtain and maintain clients. Heavy drinking can impact the quality and timeliness of your work, as well as your client relationships. That translates to losing business and income.

Here are a few of the ways drinking on the job can affect your work:

Productivity

Excessive drinking can cause you to feel sluggish, and less motivated to handle work tasks. Over-indulging may even result in hangovers during business hours. Symptoms like nausea, headaches, and “hangxiety” can make it feel impossible to do much of anything—let alone something demanding like work.

Cognitive Abilities

woman with cat working from the couch
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

Too much alcohol affects the brain. It can impair cognitive functioning, leading to poor decision-making, lower quality work (more errors), difficulty focusing, and negative interactions with coworkers.

Mental Health

Drinking can also affect your emotional state, making it difficult to concentrate on work or interact with others. Alcohol temporarily boosts serotonin levels, which can improve your mood short-term. However once those levels drop, feelings of depression, low energy, anxiety, sleep disturbance, and aggression can occur.

Career Development

All of the elements addressed above have a major bearing on your career growth. Drinking can impede your ability to meet work expectations, which ultimately translates into being passed up for promotions, not receiving good recommendations, and possibly even losing your job.

What To Do If You Find Yourself Drinking While Working from Home

If you notice that you keep refilling your glass throughout the workday, it is time to rethink your relationship with alcohol. But what is the best way to make a change in your work from home drinking habits?

One place to start is to remove alcohol from your home/office. Have a conversation with the other adults in your home, explain that you’re trying to control your alcohol use, and ask for their support.

It also helps to map out a new routine—just as you would with a job outside the home. Get up and get dressed at the same time each day, take breaks at the same time, and so forth. Having structure sets the stage for productivity and a more professional work ethic. It’s also important to have a change of scenery from time to time. Take a walk in nature or go out for a coffee break!

If you need some help to break the cycle of drinking, try looking at the benefits your employer may offer. Some companies provide mental health and addiction counseling services. If you are comfortable doing so, reach out to the human resources office for confidential assistance.

Another effective option is telehealth. Online programs like Ria Health allow you to continue working while getting the support you need. This is a good alternative if you’re concerned about workplace stigma. Many companies offer telehealth as a benefit, so you may also qualify free of charge, or at low cost.

Learn more about how Ria Health’s program works, or get started today

Written By:
Lisa Keeley
Lisa Keeley is a freelance writer in Rochester. She especially enjoys writing on health & wellness.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Writer specializing in targeted, informative content. Dedicated to making the abstract accessible.
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