How To Deal With a Hangover At Work

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Picture this: It’s the morning after a night of heavy drinking, and you look over at the clock to see it’s already 7 a.m. The realization hits that it’s a weekday, and you feel as if there’s no way you’re going to survive a full workday.

The last thing anyone wants to do is be hungover at work. But sometimes calling out just isn’t an option, and you have to find a way to get through it.

Here’s a brief guide to going to work hungover—including how to decide if you should go to work at all, and tips for making it through the day.

Should You Even Go to Work?

woman waking up with a hangover headache
Photo by Polina Tankilevitch on Pexels

First, it’s best to evaluate whether or not you can survive being hungover at work. If you’re throwing up, have a raging headache, or just feel like you’ll be all-around useless that day, maybe it’s best if you call in.

To avoid getting in trouble with your employer, call and let them know you’re sick. And if they ask, explain your symptoms honestly. The trick here is that you don’t have to explain why you have symptoms. If you don’t think your boss would be thrilled to hear that you’re calling out over a hangover, don’t mention the alcohol part. Just explain what you’re experiencing, such as a headache or stomach ache.

On the other hand, if your symptoms are manageable (albeit unpleasant) or you can’t afford to miss a day, then it’s probably best to show up.

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Going to Work Hungover: Making It Through the Day

Whether you want to avoid putting your coworkers in a tough spot, or just don’t have any sick days left to take, here are some tips for surviving the workday with a hangover.

Step 1: Make Yourself Look Like You Aren’t Hungover

Waking up with a puffy face and dry, alcohol-flushed skin isn’t exactly ideal when you’re trying to present yourself professionally. So, the first thing you’ll want to do is wash away the look of a hangover.

  • Go to the bathroom and take a cool shower. If you’re short on time, splash your face with cold water. This will help you wake up your skin in a pinch.
  • Run through a skincare routine of some kind, washing the oil and dirt off from the night before. The most important part here is to rehydrate with moisturizer to combat that alcohol-induced dryness.
  • When you pick your outfit, make sure to dress somewhat lightly in case you start feeling hot throughout the day. (And don’t be afraid to pick something cozy—you might need the extra comfort!)

Prepping for the day can be the key factor in sidestepping any awkward encounters with coworkers asking if you’re sick or didn’t sleep well.

Step 2: Set Yourself Up to Feel Good (Well, As Good as Possible)

Here are some ways to help sharpen your mind and nourish your body the day of your hangover:

Drink plenty of water and eat a healthy meal as soon as you wake up

Part of the reason hangovers suck so much is the dehydration, which can take a toll on just about everything your body does (including your mental performance). So, make sure to chug a bottle or two of water once you’re out of bed.

Aside from that, you’ll need some fuel to get through the day. Grab a bagel, oatmeal, or berry parfait to get yourself started on the right foot.

Take an aspirin or ibuprofen

Over-the-counter meds can be lifesaving when faced with the dire situation of being hungover at work. Ibuprofen can help you cut down on that alcohol-induced inflammation and get you feeling good enough to handle your responsibilities.

It’s okay to indulge in a bit of caffeine

While too much caffeine can have its downsides, having a cup or two to get yourself through the day won’t kill you. Just be sure to offset caffeine’s diuretic effects with plenty of water (since you’ll probably be dehydrated as it is).

Step 3: Plan on Picking Yourself Up Throughout the Day

man with hangover working at the office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

As the hours drone on, you might start to feel sensitive to lights, nauseous, achy, or generally unwell. There’s no magic pill for figuring out how to cure a hangover fast at work—but there are some things that can help:

  • If you feel like you’re starting to crash from fatigue, charge up on electrolytes with a sports drink, coconut water, or fruit juice.
  • Grab a snack or two throughout the day to give your brain some extra fuel.
  • Relish in your breaks. Let yourself close your eyes, do a mini-meditation session, or relax in the break room or your car. Soak up any bit of rest that you can.
  • Stay mentally strong. Working with a hangover is tough, but you’ve got this. Give yourself pep talks and know that your bed will be waiting for you at the end of the long day.

What To Do if This Is a Common Occurrence

When you notice yourself showing up to (or calling out of) work with a hangover frequently, it may be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Once or twice probably isn’t anything to worry about—but too much drinking can take a serious toll on your work performance and your well-being.

If you’ve been trying to cut back on alcohol, but can’t seem to do it on your own, Ria Health can help. Our program connects you with medical professionals, coaching meetings, anti-craving prescriptions, and more—all from your smartphone. Whether your goals involve cutting back or quitting altogether, the Ria team can support you in getting there.

Learn more about how it works, or get started today

Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Minnesota-based freelancer and health advocate who aims to empower others through her work.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Writer specializing in targeted, informative content. Dedicated to making the abstract accessible.
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