Trusted Content

Drinking On The Job

Dr. Anna Pickering

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Anna Pickering

April 3, 2019

Those who suffer from alcohol addiction may have a hard time controlling when and where they consume alcohol. Many people feel as though they cannot function without alcohol which can lead them to drink at work. Formal treatment may be needed to overcome alcohol addiction so individuals can get their lives back on track.

For most of us, consuming alcohol is reserved for nights and weekends when we are looking to unwind after a hard day or when we are hanging out with a group of friends. For those who are suffering from alcohol abuse or addiction, knowing where to draw the line may be a little less clear. Someone who has fallen victim to these things may feel the need to fuel their addiction throughout the day, no matter where they are, or what their responsibilities may be.

In fact, one of the signs that someone is suffering from an alcohol addiction is when they continue to drink despite the obvious and negative consequences that it is having on their life, which in this instance is the detriment to their job.

Drinking May Take Precedence Over A Person’s Career

While it may seem obvious to say that it isn’t a good idea to drink on the job, those who are suffering from addiction may tend to care less about rules and regulations, and more about satisfying their body’s need for alcohol. Even though many jobs have rules in place pertaining to this type of negligent and damaging behavior, someone that struggles with an addiction may let their cravings, or other factors, overwhelm their sensibilities.

A person who has fallen victim to addiction may try to hide alcohol in their beverages at work. They may put alcohol in their mug instead of coffee, or even spike their coffee. It is also possible to put alcohol in a water bottle, or a person might take numerous trips to their vehicle or break room to refill. Someone who feels they need to drink during the day will come up with ways to do so, no matter what.

There are numerous reasons why drinking on the job is extremely dangerous, risky, and costly to your career. Drinking heavily outside of work, or while on the job can affect job performance, increase rates of absenteeism and employee turnover, increase medical bills and workers’ compensation, and increase the risk of legal concerns due to the accidents and oversights that drinking can cause.

If you suspect that someone you know is drinking on the job, you can look out for these indicators that might illustrate that a problem is present and get them the assessment they need..

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Signs Of An Alcohol Use Problem At Work

Accidents And Injuries

Accidents and injuries are more likely to happen to someone who is under the influence of alcohol. While people may tend to feel fairly invincible when drinking, they most certainly are not. Quite the contrary, drinking lowers both your inhibitions and reaction time and impairs your judgement, putting your safety, and that of those around you at risk. When you drink, you may be more apt to put yourself in situations you were not intended to be, due to the effects of the alcohol in your blood stream.

Going to work under the influence or drinking while you are there puts you at risk no matter what your job is. If you are doing a job that requires you to work with heavy machinery you could be risking your life or the lives of others. Even an office job could become dangerous. Maybe you will trip and fall or tumble down a flight of stairs. No matter what the job is, the risk of injury is substantially heightened when someone has been drinking.

Showing Up Hungover

Some people may choose not to drink during their shift, but instead come to work under the influence from the night before, or hungover after a night of heavy drinking. While it is not illegal to show up to work hungover, it can certainly hinder productivity and impair your performance.

When a person is hungover, they have poor reaction time, impaired dexterity, trouble with their memory and attention, and symptoms of physical malaise. These things can all influence your day, and may significantly impair your ability to do your job. Hangovers are never fun, and anyone who has experienced a nasty one knows how hard it can be to function while roughing one out.

Showing up to work several days a week hungover could cost you your job if these negative effects continue to build up, especially if people start to notice a habit.

Showing Up Late

When someone is a victim of alcohol addiction, the alcohol often comes first, and everything else comes second. If showing up to work on time is going to get in the way of their drinking schedule, a person may choose to be late rather than sacrificing a drink. In addition, a hangover may also cause someone to move slower in the morning, making it harder to show up on time.

This not only affects a person’s capacity to do their job, but influences those around them that may be dependent on the shared responsibilities within the job. If tardiness is becoming a trend, it may be time to look out for other signs that someone is drinking too much.

Smelling Of Alcohol

It is a lot easier to notice a problem with physical indicators like the smell alcohol on the breath. If you notice that someone constantly, or even periodically, smells of alcohol, there may be cause for concern. People who are suffering from an addiction will go to great lengths to cover it up. They may often smell like mints because they are trying to cover the scent on their breath, while others may compulsively use lotions or colognes to keep the smell at bay.

Lack Of Productivity

If someone is suffering from alcohol addiction it can become very difficult to maintain their responsibilities at work, or in life in general. A person may have decreased productivity, miss important deadlines, not meet their required quotas, or submit work that is subpar.

Drinking impairs a person’s thought processes, it can alter their judgement, focus, and critical decision-making skills. These things all come into play within the rigors of any job—paired with a decrease in energy, and the sense of physical and mental discomfort that can accompany drinking, you can be set back within your day-to-day tasks and goals. Drinking can alter a person’s emotional state as well, which may impede their ability to work well with others.

If you notice that an employee or coworker has been slacking at work, or struggling in other ways, there may be a reason. While drinking on the job is not necessarily the first conclusion to jump to, it is definitely one to keep in mind if you have noticed other signs of alcohol abuse or addiction.

Excessive Drinking At Work Functions

If you’re at a work function, paying attention to someone you think might be drinking on the job could give you a better idea if there should be cause for concern. If there is a work event, a person with an alcohol addiction may overdo it and consume an excess amount of alcohol, while others will choose to have only a couple drinks and keep their wits about them. They might also seem to get buzzed fast after only one drink, which may be indicative of the fact that they were drinking heavily before they arrived.

Most people want to maintain a level of professionalism while at work, even if it is an after hours event. Those who suffer from addiction have a harder time controlling their alcohol intake. This can also be true for events that happen during work hours, such as an immoderate amount of drinking at a client luncheon. Someone who has an alcohol problem may have a harder time restricting their alcohol consumption no matter where they are. Keep in mind, this alone may not mean that an addiction is present, however, it is a matter to be taken seriously.

A Person That Drinks On The Job Needs Help

Drinking on the job is a serious matter with serious consequences. It can require support, prevention, intervention, and in some cases, rehabilitation. Today, programs and services exist both within the workforce and outside of it, to help you conquer your addiction and regain your life and career.

If you suspect someone you know is drinking at work or suffering from alcohol addiction, it is important to handle the situation carefully and tactfully. Upsetting someone who is drinking or drunk at work may set them off. Those who have fallen victim to alcohol abuse may be defensive when confronted. If a person is drinking at work, this problem needs to be addressed before it further spirals out of control.

Let Us Help You Protect Your Health And Your Job

If you suspect an employee, coworker, or family member is drinking on the job and are unsure what to do next, contact us at We are here to help those who suffer from addiction as well as their friends, colleagues, and loved ones that don’t know where to go from here get the treatment they need.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Alcohol and the Workplace

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - Harmful Alcohol Use

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism - The Workplace and Alcohol Problem Prevention

United States Office of Personnel Management - Alcoholism in the Workplace: A Handbook for Supervisors

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