Programmer’s Guide to After Work Happy Hour

Written By Ryan Ayers

In the programming community, drinking is pervasive. There are plenty of open bars at conferences and no shortage of local happy hour get-togethers in the coding community. What better way to blow off some steam and socialize with co-workers than at a happy hour, right? There, all the drinks and snacks are often discounted and sizable.

However, your conduct and consumption of alcohol during work-related functions can significantly affect your health and professional image. Accordingly, programmers must contemplate their drinking behavior at industry events as well as casual gatherings.

Monitoring your fitness and health is an essential part in maintaining work-life balance for programmers. The sedentary lifestyle of coding makes fitness all that much more critical. Happy hour is designed to be a fun time, but coders have a lot to think about—from their health to how superiors and peers will perceive their behavior after a company gathering.

It’s important to understand the side effects that happy hour can have on your physical, emotional, and mental health. Read on to discover essential life hacks that will allow you to enjoy your happy hour fun while staying healthy and informed. 

Here’s to Your Health!

The happy hour culture in tech is especially pertinent in today’s work environment. Many tech companies use happy hours to boost morale and improve a collaborative office culture. 

Since happy hours are based around alcohol, you must think about the health aspects of regular drinking. Regular drinking has several side effects that can be detrimental to health, and coders are particularly vulnerable to these side effects. 

Not only are coders at the heart of tech office cultures, but they also generally lead a sedentary lifestyle at the office, making the effects of excessive alcohol consumption all the more unhealthy. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classifies binge drinking as when women consume four or more, or men consume five or more alcoholic beverages during any single occasion.

According to the CDC, excessive alcohol consumption contributed to 88,000 deaths between 2006 and 2010. These mortal events decreased people’s lives by an average of 30 years.

Furthermore, drinking was the cause of one in 10 deaths among adults 20 to 64 years old. The estimated cost of alcohol consumption that year was $249 billion, or $2.05 for every drink that people consumed.

Heavy drinking places you at immediate risk. It dramatically increases your chances of getting into a motor vehicle accident or falling and is a leading contributing factor in serious crimes, such as homicide, domestic violence, sexual assault, and suicide.

Regular binge drinking can also lead to chronic illnesses, including digestion problems, heart disease, high blood pressure, liver disease, and strokes.

If you’re frequenting these happy hours once or twice a week, that alcohol adds up. With the reduced inhibition that alcohol brings, you tend to lose track of how much you’re drinking or succumb to peer pressure and consume more. Peer pressure can take on many forms including hazing, which isn’t limited to college campuses. One of the most frequently reported hazing behaviors is binge drinking, and workplaces are not exempt from perpetuating that culture at times. 

Be mindful of how much you’re consuming and how frequently you’re going out for these happy hours. Remember, there’s always a way to socialize without drinking. You can order a nonalcoholic drink or a drink with low ABV. Or just stick with the french fries and wings.

Keeping Things Right and Tight

There’s a strong correlation between the alcohol consumed at those regular happy hour meet-ups and your time in the gym. Alcohol diminishes your physical fitness. However, physical fitness significantly offsets the adverse side effects of excessive drinking.

Drinking and fitness work against each other. Alcohol decreases your ability to reach fitness goals. Let’s say you had plans to go to the gym that afternoon, but instead you’re four beers deep at a happy hour. A regular exercise regimen and a healthy diet are the best ways to combat alcoholism as well as the adverse health effects of regular drinking.

Fitness regimens are especially important for coders who spend a majority of their workday sitting in the same position and looking at small text on a screen. Regular exercise is proven to be good for maintaining vision, lowering body fat, and keeping a healthy heart rate. 

Alcohol is all empty calories, and drinkers usually mix those empty calories with sugary liquids to improve its taste. Effectively, the empty calories and sugar will counteract any positive gains you’ve made in the gym. A happy hour menu almost never includes a hearty leafy green salad or energy-packed fruit bowl. The food is often greasy, fatty, and consequently, delicious.

Indulging in these treats every once in a while is completely normal and part of the experience of socializing with co-workers. But it’s important to let one-offs be one-offs and not make unhealthy eating and drinking a regular habit. Keep an eye out on what you’re putting into your body, and try incorporating a fitness activity later into the week. 

To Drink or Not To Drink? – That Depends

Coders need to think about whether to drink at corporate events. At most corporate events, there’s an opportunity to drink. Still, many professionals wonder if it’s a good idea to drink at company functions.

Most employers will emphasize the importance of responsible drinking, either to protect employees or the company. If you decide in favor of drinking, you need to think about how much. Here, it’s important to know thyself. You need to make an honest assessment of how alcohol in various quantities affects your behavior.

One or two drinks will probably relax you. Beyond that, alcohol will begin to impair your ability to talk. After three or four drinks, you’ll enter a level of intoxication that will likely impair your ability to make wise decisions. 

This is where people begin to do things at company events that may come back to haunt them. Remember, you’re likely out with your managers and leadership, and what you do at a happy hour isn’t excusable.

It might be a good idea to steer away from controversial or polarizing conversations about work projects. Discussing new industry trends or coding hacks is perfectly fine so long as you remember to maintain your professionalism. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the celebration of a company get-together and lose count of your drinks. To prevent this, decide on your limit before you go to the event. This decision will make it harder for you to drink excessively.

Furthermore, don’t juice up before the party. By imbibing before an event, you’re diminishing your ability to focus and make sound decisions. You’re also making it that much easier to become overly intoxicated.

A Point To Ponder

Alcohol and an industry culture that’s well-known for exclusion can turn out to be a bad mix. Already, women have faced tremendous bias in the technology field, and they continue to do so. Over the last 25 years, women’s role in computing has significantly declined, according to a McKinsey study, and the problem is more pronounced for women of color.

In an industry with such deep-seated problems, it’s most likely an excellent idea to limit your alcohol intake at company functions. While it’s essential to fit in with the corporate culture, it’s also vital to be the change you want to see in others.

People typically follow the herd. If a peer sees that you are abstaining or limiting your drinking, they’re more likely to follow your example.

A poor decision that you make while drinking at a company event might just ruin your programming career. If you must, ask yourself “Is it worth it?” The wise decision you make today may help you build a more solid foundation for tomorrow.

Tech companies largely foster a happy hour culture because they know coders are working on tough projects and deserve a break every now and then. So make sure you take advantage of those opportunities to take a well-deserved break, celebrate your individual and company accomplishments, and help foster a positive work culture. Just keep in mind that alcohol does have consequences and that it’s important to consider being prepared by having a good plan for your health.