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Making fun of hangovers at work needs to be taken seriously as a risk

Gary MartinThe West Australian
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In social and professional circles, tales of working with a hangover are often shared with a mix of humour and pride and treated as evidence of endurance or commitment to the job.
Camera IconIn social and professional circles, tales of working with a hangover are often shared with a mix of humour and pride and treated as evidence of endurance or commitment to the job. Credit: jarmoluk/Pixabay

In social and professional circles, tales of working with a hangover are often shared with a mix of humour and pride and treated as evidence of endurance or commitment to the job.

That mindset raises the question as to whether such an attitude ought to be reconsidered, given the potential health risks and impacts on productivity, safety, and workplace culture that might come with working under the influence of a hangover.

Amid a growing focus on workplace health and safety, alongside the expanding responsibilities of both employers and employees, showing up to work with a hangover is increasingly recognized as risky business.

While the headaches of working with a hangover are well known, we often decide to overlook and ignore the sobering facts linked to working when we are not at our best, choosing instead to remain blurry-eyed about the impact on our productivity, safety and overall well-being.

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The physical effects of a hangover are many and varied and include impaired coordination and reduced reaction time, which can heighten the risk of accidents and errors.

In industries where precision and alertness are paramount, such as manufacturing, healthcare, and transportation, the consequences can be dire, not just for the individual affected but also for colleagues, clients, and the public.

Hangovers affect cognitive or thinking functions, leading to decreased concentration, memory problems, and difficulty in performing complex tasks.

This cognitive impairment results in reduced productivity and a decline in the quality of work, as tasks take longer to complete and are more prone to errors.

For businesses, this translates to financial losses and potential damage to reputation, especially in sectors where high standards of professionalism are expected.

That aside, a culture that even subtly approves of or jokes about coming to work hungover may contribute to a deteriorating atmosphere where subpar performance becomes normalised or even celebrated.

This not only undermines the individual’s capability to perform at their peak but also affects the team’s collective output and the quality of work delivered.

In response to these challenges, some individuals resort to taking “sickies” to avoid the consequences of working while hungover, calling in sick under the guise of an unrelated illness.

Others seek out various hangover remedies in an attempt to counteract the effects and maintain their work performance.

Acknowledging that we should adopt a different attitude towards attending the workplace with a hangover might indeed prompt groans or eye rolls from those who view it as a challenge to the perceived badge of honour associated with surviving work while hungover.

Yet, embracing this shift is crucial for fostering a healthier, safer, and more productive work environment, where well-being and responsibility take precedence over outdated notions of endurance.

As workplace cultures evolve, recognising and addressing the implications of such behaviours becomes crucial in building healthier, safer, and more productive work environments.

In the meantime, for anyone brewing plans to tackle work with a hangover ranging from mild to severe, the sobering advice is to ferment those plans by staying at home.

Professor Gary Martin is CEO of AIM WA and a workplace and social affairs expert

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