HR Strange But True!
December 06, 2002
We all know that HR is never boring. But sometimes it can get downright strange...

Liquid benefits

Imagine looking up from your desk late in the afternoon to find a beverage cart heading your way, piled high with beer, wine, and munchies - all courtesy of the company.

The Globe and Mail of Toronto reports that the perk has been instituted at a small but growing number of Canadian companies, such Hill and Knowlton Canada, a high-profile public relations firm in Toronto.

"The cart is a signal that the hard work is almost over," Hill and Knowlton PR assistant consultant Jeff Myrick told the newspaper one afternoon, as he grabbed a bottle of cream ale and a plate of popcorn and pretzels. "When I first saw it, I thought 'Wow.' I used to work for the government, and they didn't do stuff like this."

The Globe and Mail notes that alcohol has been a workplace taboo in recent years, especially amid growing liability issues. Alcoholics have been sent to rehab, alcohol has been banned from company property, and office parties have been turned into cash-bar or dry affairs.

So why have well-respected companies like Hill and Knowlton and Softchoice Corp., also of Toronto, embraced alcohol and made social drinking a regular part of its corporate culture? Because it's an easy way to give increasingly harried employees an important chance to relax and think, says Simon Taggar, a human resources professor at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario.

"Back 20, 30 years ago, you used to have time to kick back, have a cigarette, a couple of beers and talk about business ideas," Tagger told the Globe and Mail. "Now, we are all so busy. Most people don't even have time to go out together after work. What we are losing is that relaxed climate where you can bounce around ideas, and get to really know one another."

Taggar added that a beer cart or similar perk, like beer and pizza nights, are relatively cheap but effective ways to attract young workers - especially in tough economic times. "Stuff like this helps to set a company apart. Young people are looking for a good work environment."

He cautioned that company-sanctioned drinking events would work best for businesses that depend on creativity and innovation. "You don't want a surgeon to have a couple beers before they go into surgery. It's not for your short-term decision-making. It's for long-term strategizing and for thinking outside the box."

Source: The Globe and Mail of Toronto

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