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Hungover at Work

A fun night out on the town can turn into a rough morning pretty quickly. It’s easy to stay curled up in bed while waiting for the pain to subside – unless that fun night took place before a weekday. Attending work responsibilities while nursing a blaring headache and queasiness can make the job and the hangover seem impossible to get through.

Getting hit with a hangover may lead most people to call in sick, but how many still show up to work? How often are those employees caught, and what are the consequences when they are? We surveyed over 1,000 full-time employees about working while hungover to get a better picture of what they face after consuming too much alcohol. Keep reading to see what we found.

A Price to Pay

The morning after heavy drinking can leave your body with headaches, nausea, dizziness, and oversensitivity – symptoms that will have you feeling downright sick. While this sickness is technically self-induced, claiming illness when calling out of work wouldn’t be a lie. On average, employees used two sick days each year to stay home nursing a hangover. That number skyrocketed to an average of eight sick days taken for those in the technology industry. Employees in the construction and legal industries took an average of four sick days each for a hangover, while those in the medical, wholesale, and government sectors only took one day each on average.

One sick day now and then doesn’t seem like much, but taking an average of just two sick days amounts to about $355 per employee missing from employers’ pockets each year. Considering there were nearly 157 million employed U.S. workers in 2018 and that over 75 percent claimed to have gone to work hungover, over $41 billion in salary was spent on days missed for hangovers last year. In fact, the money spent paying employees who call in sick for a hangover could be detrimental to small businesses.

Differences by Age and Industry

As mentioned earlier, around 75 percent of workers are showing up hungover, and the majority are men – almost 80 percent of male employees have shown up to work hungover, while around 70 percent of women have done the same. Despite the differences in how alcohol affects men and women, men are more likely to binge drink, therefore, increasing their risk of a hangover.

Millennials were also the most likely to take their hangover to work (almost 78 percent), followed by baby boomers and Gen Xers at roughly 70 percent each. The number of workers showing up hungover varies greatly by industry, as well. Those working in the legal field spent their workday hungover more than any other industry, with almost 94 percent of employees fessing up to it.

How Employees Handle Hangovers

Showing up to work hungover is one thing, but what happens once employees step into the office? On average, respondents reported only getting five hours of work done when they were hungover. Instead, 46.3 percent of hungover workers pretended to work when they really weren’t. Almost 46 percent also went to the bathroom an excessive amount of times.

Hangovers definitely can make one physically ill, but it’s unclear if these employees are escaping to the bathroom to sneak in a much-needed break or are actually suffering from an upset stomach. However, trips to the bathroom, extra-long lunches, and an excessive number of breaks weren’t enough for some employees – 19 percent said they had actually taken a nap at work hoping to help their hangover.

Millennials were the most likely to do most of the hangover-easing activities, including taking a nap at their desk. Pretending to get work done was the most common activity for millennials and Gen Xers, though. Baby boomers, on the other hand, were more likely to take a trip to the bathroom an excessive number of times. Only around 28 percent of baby boomers faked their work ethic or took a long lunch.

Facing the Consequences

Coming to work hungover has physical consequences. Having to do work, or at least pretending to, when all your body wants is to lie in bed doing absolutely nothing can seem like torture. But physical consequences are the least of your worries when a hangover leads to mistakes or injuries at work. Luckily, the most common result of coming to work with a hangover was simply being late. However, nearly 39 percent of employees said they made a mistake in their work, and almost 10 percent missed an important deadline. Even worse, 5 percent of employees got injured at work when hungover, and 2.6 percent were fired.

Wrongdoings by Industry

Of course, not all jobs run the risk of injury. The effects of a hangover greatly depend on the type of work an employee is trying to get done. Those working in the construction industry were the most likely to fall asleep at work, get injured, and lose a client’s business. In the technological field, though, hangovers had the potential to cost employees their job – almost 8 percent of employees showing up to work hungover in the technology industry said they were fired.

Open for Discussion

There are plenty of benefits to having a relationship with your boss, but no matter how close you are personally or professionally, there are some things you just don’t say to a superior. Is revealing to your boss that you’re hungover one of those things? For around 31 percent of employees, hangovers seemed to be open for discussion. Luckily for those employees, over 66 percent received no consequences for being honest, but 23 percent were issued a formal warning. Almost 21 percent were verbally reprimanded, and nearly 12 percent were fired.

Revealing your hangover to your boss may not run you the risk of getting fired, especially if your industry is more laid-back and this is your first offense. But continuing to show up to work hungover and letting the sickness affect your work ethic and performance is sure to get on your boss’s bad side, no matter how strong the relationship. The situation may not always call for honesty, but be prepared for the consequences if you’re going to divulge.

Not Just a Work Problem

Weeknights out on the town may help employees blow off steam after a rough day, but returning to work the following day is often nowhere near as fun as the night prior. Calling in sick and taking the day off can lead to a lot of money lost while putting on a brave face and showing up to work can lead to mistakes, write-ups, and even job loss. Now and then, a night of too many drinks can turn into a next-day nightmare, but when these hangovers begin happening more frequently, it could be the sign of a problem.

With over 15 million adults having an alcohol use disorder, it’s important to recognize the difference between substance use and substance abuse. Whether signs are just beginning to show or you or a loved one has struggled for a long time, recovery is possible. At Delphi Behavioral Health Group, our addiction specialists can assist in matching you with the facility and treatment plan that best fits your needs. To talk to a care expert about your options or to simply learn more about alcohol use and recovery, visit us online today.

Sources

https://www.healthline.com/health-news/addiction-what-hangover-cures-work-112913#1

https://www.forbes.com/special-report/2013/what-a-billion-dollars-buys-you.html

https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/mens-health.htm

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hangovers/symptoms-causes/syc-20373012

https://www.forbes.com/sites/sarahlandrum/2017/12/08/the-importance-of-working-for-a-boss-that-supports-you/#14e6c0bf486a

https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2017/11/01/ten-things-never-ever-to-tell-your-manager/#630a1f5834c4

https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics

Methodology

We collected survey responses from 1,003 full-time employees from Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. Fifty-seven percent of our participants were men, and 43 percent were women. Participants ranged in age from 18 to 73 with a mean of 34.6 and a standard deviation of 9.3. Anyone who was not a full-time employee was disqualified. In total, 1,985 people attempted to take the survey. Their demographic data were used to determine the percentage of the total workforce that has ever been hungover at work. We used data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to find the total number of employed U.S. Americans in 2018, as well as the median weekly U.S. salary. We used these numbers to calculate how much employers spend on hangovers.

Limitations

The data we are presenting rely on self-reporting. There are many issues with self-reported data. These issues include but are not limited to: selective memory, telescoping, attribution, and exaggeration.

Fair Use Statement

Are you interested in sharing our study on experiencing hangovers at work? For noncommercial purposes only, you may share our project with colleagues and friends. We ask you to please link back to this original study to give us credit for our work!