Half a million people go to work hungover every day

A report suggests the average worker comes in with a hangover at least three times a month...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Feeling a bit rough this morning, after one too many last night? Well, around 519,999 other people are in the same boat, according to research by alcohol charity Drinkaware. Apparently nearly one in ten workers will have a hangover this morning, while the average person will stumble into the office bleary-eyed, dry-mouthed and with a higher-than-average craving for a bacon-and-egg sandwich at least three times a month. And that’s before the World Cup starts. Doesn’t really bode well for productivity, does it?

Not surprisingly, those who go to work with a hangover (and we don’t think it’d be too presumptuous to suggest that younger staff are the worst culprits) have problems keeping on top of their workload: one in five admit to making mistakes, while 7% say they’ve had to leave work early from the resulting ‘illness’.

One of the problems is that managers can often appear to have a double standard when it comes to hangovers, as this survey shows: 89% of people think it’s ‘unacceptable’ to go to work thus afflicted, yet 60% say they’ve had a bit of a joke about it with their boss or colleagues. If it’s officially frowned upon, but unofficially tolerated or even laughed at, it’s no wonder staff keep doing it.

Still, any business feeling let down by its red-eyed staff should spare a thought for Carlsberg, which was threatened with strike action in April after telling its Danish workforce they were only allowed to drink at lunchtime. Remarkably, warehouse staff and drivers at the factory were previously entitled to three beers a day; but in an effort to up productivity, bosses restricted drinking times to lunch and after work. Staff were outraged at this flagrant infringement of their fundamental human right to neck lager on work time: 'We have never had a problem with accidents or anything with alcohol involved,' protested one. That’s as may be – though we wonder how much time was lost to toilet breaks.

Of course, the serious side to this story is that hangovers aren’t necessarily a laughing matter for employers; not only is repeated boozing bad for your employees’ health; but the after-effects can cause disruption, accidents and lower productivity. You obviously can't stop people drinking on their own time, so you can't avoid hangovers altogether - but it's worth having some clear policies in place for those who cross the line too often. And some strong coffee, perhaps.


In today's bulletin:

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Half a million people go to work hungover every day
John Vincent: Things we know and unlearn (then have to learn again)

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