Party season is upon us, but the pre-Christmas drink and catch ups will look very different this year.
The way we socialise and approach drinking has changed in 2020 and I wonder if that change will be lasting. One of the podcasts I really enjoy about habits discusses how change in the environment actually gives us an opportunity for a lasting change in behaviour. I guess the key is the intention. The overall theme of the series is about setting Habits that support you in achieving your goals. The one about drinking or not drinking was actually the one that inspired me to write this blog. That an ad for a dating site for non drinkers.
For me drinking was and is a highly social thing. However not in a work environment and definitely not mid week.
During my career and even during early years of setting my company drinking was a fact of life. In a startup culture beer on the desk and wine and pizza after hours was the thing to do.
In the accelerator programme, some of the founders were truly bootstrapping.
With every pound of their small seed fund allocated to product building, London bar tabs were simply not an option. So the sponsored pizza night was actually the only social and fun thing they had.
But even in my corporate days I found that I had been missing out on the bonding effects of going for a team drink – so as a compromise I did try to push for Friday after work. It was still at a cost of my Saturday morning, as I was always feeling it, even after a couple of cocktails.
Thankfully it was not so often and usually during easy periods of late December.
It highlights how drink is associated with our working culture. On the lighter side of the spectrum there is a cocktail with a client or a colleague – on another a full blown party session, perhaps abroad with no photos allowed.
Seemingly unharmful thing like a drink with a client actually creates a massive barrier for people with family commitments, religious beliefs, health conditions or life choices.
Some may even feel the drinking culture of doing business is simply discriminating.
I love a glass of wine or champagne to celebrate but for me drink and work just doesn’t mix.
Right at the start of setting up Flow City (or Boldmind Ltd back then) I remember meeting a business contact. I asked him some questions and gave a little bit of background about who we are and what we do. He pointed to a wine glass and said, it’s great to meet me and that he would love to schedule a proper meeting to learn more. He said: “let’s continue on Monday. I do not discuss business after drinking”. The party just started and he may have taken a sip or two from his glass, so he was completely sober. He was a very successful businessman and the way he set the boundary really impressed me.
Yet , we are led to believe that to do business we must entertain and that alcohol helps us build relationships. That is definitely the truth, as is having a meal together. It is however more difficult for those who are expecting a child or carrying for a child.
All of the people working for Flow City are parents. We are very mindful of that when planning client or team activities to take into consideration life commitments. Asking a mum how is on a strict schedule to go out for an impromptu drink is simply not part of our culture.
In fact last year we organised a family weekend away with some of the team, to bond, discuss strategy and get to know each other. Some mothers that came with their babies were still breastfeeding and children had to be in bed by 8. We still had an amazing time, and felt it brought the company closer together.
Going to a conference or client meeting to a different city brings a whole array of challenges for nursing mothers, so we said: bring a baby with you. It took some planning on my part, but it was worth it and an acknowledgment of all those mothers who remain committed to their work, but at a huge cost and only thanks to meticulous planning.
I was reminiscing of the trip as the holiday season approaches and it made me realise that the concept of a Christmas party is going to have to be reevaluated.
There is a lot of discussion now, how working from home is a challenge for some. I think it’s important to acknowledge that parents, particularly women but also single parents, always had to juggle their attention whilst keeping a professional image.
New reality may not be easy, but in some way it’s leveling the playing field, giving all of us opportunity being judged by the quality of our work.
And if 2020 is starting sober dating then perhaps 2021 will start a trend of doing business without alcohol.