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Drinking While Working from Home

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Happy Hour from Home: Remote Work and Drinking on the Job

The COVID-19 pandemic led to many changes in the way people live. One of the most significant changes was more people working from home. Many people enjoyed the convenience of this transition, but others struggled. Some people turned to alcohol to cope.

Health experts believe pandemic-related societal changes, including an increase of working from home, led to a variety of issues, including:

  • Psychological health problems
  • Behavioral health issues
  • The development or continuance of addiction to alcohol and/or drugs

Even people who did not struggle with alcohol use or alcohol addiction before spring of 2020 were faced with challenges and opportunities that led to changes in their drinking. 

For many, constantly staying in the same surroundings became stressful. Some people dealt with this stress by turning to substances. 

According to Nielsen, an American research company, alcohol sales rose 54 percent in late March 2020. Online sales of alcohol were up 500 percent by late April 2020. Many adults reported they consumed more alcohol during the early stages of lockdown, with higher rates among millennials and Gen-Xers.1

In the United Kingdom, a study of 691 adults showed that 17 percent reported increased alcohol use during the lockdown. The majority of the increase was in younger subjects (18 to 34 years). There was also a significant link between increased alcohol consumption and poor overall mental health, including depression and lower mental wellbeing.2

Reasons Remote Workers are Drinking

There are several reasons why some people who work from home drank and/or still drink alcohol during the work day:

Economic Impact

More families are struggling financially, especially as a result of the pandemic. Some people choose to deal with financial stress by drinking alcohol.

General Stress

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought on several stressful factors that were not always part of everyday life. These include social distancing, wearing masks, and for some, losing work. Many people, some of whom faced significant stressful situations for the first time in their lives, have turned to alcohol to cope.

Loneliness

Limited social interaction, as a result of the pandemic, has left many people feeling lonely. People who used to socialize and drink with friends have switched to drinking alone. Other people now drink alcohol to cope with loneliness, even if they rarely, if ever, drank alcohol before.

Secrecy

Social distancing provides more opportunities to drink alone, which can be dangerous for people who have alcohol abuse problems. Some people also limit their drinking in social situations to avoid judgment. Drinking by themselves prevents others from limiting their alcohol intake.

Job Insecurity

The pandemic has caused changes in job security for many people. Many people aren’t sure if or for how long their job is secure, while others have lost their job completely. In such cases, some people turn to alcohol to quell their fears and uncertainty.

Family Stress

In homes where everyone works from home and/or kids participate in remote schooling, tensions can be high. Some people who experience this at-home stress turn to alcohol as an escape from challenging family situations.

Social Acceptance

Social media is filled with jokes about day drinking and at-home happy hours. While this attitude might help people feel connected or make them laugh, it also portrays excessive daily alcohol consumption as acceptable.

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How Alcohol Affects Productivity

While some people might think they can drink alcohol without it affecting their work, this is not entirely true. Alcohol impacts a person’s health, as well as their work productivity.

It can result in:

  • Difficulty focusing and staying on task
  • Slurring speech during video or phone calls
  • Missing phone calls, emails, and other notifications
  • Missing or showing up late for meetings
  • Difficulty remembering tasks
  • Falling asleep or needing to nap during work hours
  • Poor decision making 

Can You Get Caught?

Excessive amounts of time spent working at home alone might make you think you can get away with drinking on the job. But this is not true.

Employers know that working from home gives people more freedom and access to things that would normally only occur during non-working hours. Work-from-home freedom does not apply to having an on-the-clock drink. 

Many employers know there’s an increased risk of drinking while working, and they are on the lookout for signs of this occurring. 

Remote employees must remember that even though they are working from home, they are still on the job, even though they aren’t at the office. The same expectation not to drink during working hours exists for employees who do not work remotely.

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Signs of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

Symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) include:

  • Inability to quit drinking even if you have a desire to do so
  • Making excuses for your drinking habits
  • Drinking during “off hours,” especially first thing in the morning, or drinking during working hours
  • Drinking alone
  • Mood changes
  • Temporary memory loss
  • Hangovers
  • Abandoning responsibilities to drink
  • Sneaking in drinks throughout the day
  • An inability to stop drinking even when loved ones express concerns
  • Heavy drinking binges or frequent moderate drinking

Treatment options for alcohol addiction are available for people whose drinking habits have become problematic. These treatment options include:

  • Inpatient rehab
  • Outpatient rehab
  • Peer support groups and 12-step programs, including Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Medication
  • Therapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational enhancement therapy (MET), and family counseling
Updated on March 29, 2022
6 sources cited
  1. Rebalancing the ‘COVID-19 Effect’ on Alcohol Sales.” NielsenIQ, 7 May 2020.
  2. Jacob, Louis, et al. “Alcohol Use and Mental Health during COVID-19 Lockdown: A Cross-Sectional Study in a Sample of UK Adults.” Drug and Alcohol Dependence, vol. 219, Feb. 2021, p. 108488, 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2020.108488. 
  3. “COVID-19 Pandemic Brings New Concerns about Excessive Drinking.” Www.heart.org. 
  4. COVID-19 Pandemic and Alcohol Consumption: Impacts and Interconnections.” Toxicology Reports, vol. 8, 1 Jan. 2021, pp. 529–535, 10.1016/j.toxrep.2021.03.005. 
  5. Alcohol Consumption during the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Cross-Sectional Survey of US Adults.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 17, no. 24, 9 Dec. 2020, p. 9189, 10.3390/ijerph17249189.
  6. Killgore, William D.S., et al. “Morning Drinking during COVID-19 Lockdowns.” Psychiatry Research, vol. 307, Jan. 2022, p. 114320, 10.1016/j.psychres.2021.114320. 

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