Instant coffee just isn’t a draw anymore. The latest development in Gilded Cage technology is nothing less than the open bar. Boooooze!

Reader S draws our attention to a Wall Street Journal item about the lengths some firms are going to to get employees back in the harness:

some [businesses] are pulling out the stops–literally, on kegs, casks and wine bottles–in an attempt to make workplaces seem cool. Sure, executives could simply order people to return to their cubicles, and some have, but many want their workers to come back and like it.

It’s never enough to have a workforce under the thumb, is it? Wage slaves have to enjoy being stuck in a room with their better-paid overlords, puzzling over spreadsheets or just pretending to be busy while the sun shines and their kids grow up.

That means giving people what they want, or at least what bosses think they want. People like to wear comfy hoodies, right? OK! They miss their dogs when they go to work, don’t they? The canines can come!

A happy worker is a productive worker! It’s just interesting that the key to worker happiness is so rarely “higher wages” or “fewer hours” or “work from anywhere.” It’s always crap like this.

[Workers] love an afternoon cocktail, yes? Check out our new office bar!

So offices are filling with booze now. Well, why not? It’s not as if these places were conducive to concentration anyway.

And who better to emulate than our leaders in Downing Street? If they can run a whole country on the slosh, we can probably handle an inconsequential marketing concern.

You might think that, as a noted booze hound, I’d welcome the news of free drinks for office workers. But on the actual clock? It’s a recipe for disaster.

A social lubricant, booze encourages camaraderie and honesty. And being honest at work, let’s face it, will get you sacked.

This is why the offer of booze at work will neither work nor last. As soon as one leery wage slave, tongue loosened by tequila slammers, starts speaking truth to power, they’ll take it away. After all, the drunks in HR won’t do anything to help.

Alas, by that time, you’ll all be back where the bosses want you instead of being paid to wear slippers. Don’t be fooled. I’m here to help you spot a classic trap.

Booze can blur the line between professional and personal relationships in ways that make certain workers—often less-powerful ones—feel uncomfortable.

Exactly. Look, if workers have shown they can be productive at home and if, as figures suggest, they prefer to work remotely, why do we need such desperate attempts to coax them back to the office? Why are our bosses so needy about getting us back into city centres and onto industrial estates in the age of the total digital connectivity? Why does it have to be the worst of both worlds?

It’s because they (not we) pin their identities, often their whole lives, on the idea of being a manager of people. Which is pretty darn sad when you think about it.

Ultimately, these people like sitting in rush hour traffic because it makes them feel important. They like to chair meetings while idly clicking at a biro. They like to stride around the corridors like they’re in The West Wing.

They like feeling big while others in proximity feel small.

Feeling small and drunk probably isn’t a good combination, so I’d encourage anyone tempted by an office bar to stay at home. Drink at night instead, with company — not a company (aha!) — like nature intended.

Come with me on a journey back to reality! Buy my book, I’m Out (the paperback manifestation of Escape Everything!)


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at wringham.co.uk

One Response to “Hic!”

  1. Radhika says:

    Very interesting that this is considered a new perk. I work in a field where this is the norm and the expectation for over a decade. It’s not fun as someone who doesn’t drink and as someone who’s generally uncomfortable around people who are drinking without any reliable ideas of consent and exit plans (ie friends are fine, bars are fine, work sure is an unreliable place where a lot of bad things could happen). And those bad things do happen… They’re just tolerated in my industry.

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