It’s Time to Relearn How to Have Work Drinks

When Michelle Marks went out for drinks with her co-workers one weeknight in late May, the group, giddy at finally gathering together, celebrated for about four hours.

“We closed out the place,” says the 32-year-old plant pathologist from Columbia, Md. “We ended up just chatting and we ordered pizza, played a few board games…It was just really, really nice.”

As excited as Ms. Marks, who started her current job a month before Covid-19 lockdowns, was to take part in this office-life fixture and just be out with others again socially, she didn’t plunge in with abandon. She stuck to her pre-pandemic office drinks rule of just one or two beverages. “I would never get drunk in the presence of co-workers,” she says.

As society emerges from lockdowns and people reconnect with co-workers at in-person happy hours, many may have to remind themselves just how to do work drinks. More than a year away from this kind of setting means social skills may have gotten rusty. Introverts and others who were already anxious about after-work mixers might feel more anxious now that these functions are resuming.

Working from home put on hold some of the professional code-switching that people engage in when in person with others. The return of work socials and networking requires some refreshers on appropriate behavior and imbibing, especially with alcohol present.

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