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Alcohol at Work

The Latest Silicon Valley Trend: Free Beer and Wine at Work

To compensate for the long hours demanded by Silicon Valley start ups, many employers now offer free beer and wine on the job as a standard perk of employment.

At pressure cooker Silicon Valley start-ups in the pursuit of that next big payday – the line between work life and home habits tends to get a bit blurred; particularly when working long hours that can easily stretch deep into the night, or into the morning beyond that.

So in workplace 3.0 where a 9 to 5 is yesterday’s ideal; what does it take to keep your workers happy?

At start ups like Yelp Inc. - the answer is beer; namely a keg of free beer stationed at easy reach from the coding terminals – but in today’s tech climate, even more established companies like Twitter provide workers with an always well stocked beer and wine fridge.

At Yelp Inc. a keg of beer is offered to employees as a perk of the job, and you can have as much as you like at any time you like, mindful of the fact that an app tracks each employee’s consumption. Software company execs say their employees are adults and capable of handling a drink or two while doing a very difficult job, but critics wonder if that’s an accurate assumption and point to studies which show how productivity declines and workplace problems, like sexual harassment, tend to increase as drinking goes up.

New York University Social Sciences Professor Dalton Conley commented, saying, “Many people can work after one beer, but I doubt many people can do serious knowledge work very productively after four or five” and Robert Sutton, a professor of Management Science at Stanford likewise voiced concern over the trend towards free flowing tech workplaces, saying, “There’s like a bazillion studies that show when people drink, their performance is impaired, and there’s problems with absenteeism.”

Whatever the studies say, those in the trenches at 24 hour a day workplaces say that a few drinks here and there are just a normal part of a new reality that demands so much of workers – or as Joe Beninato, CEO of Tello Inc. explains, “When you’re working at a startup, you’re working 24-7 and it takes over your life. It’s not like it’s a wild fraternity party or something like that -- we’re all adults.”

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