How to control your drinking on a Christmas work night out

From kissing our colleagues to criticising the boss, over a quarter of us in the UK have regretted something we did at a Christmas work night out. With drinking too much alcohol being the primary culprit, how can we control our drinking when we feel the pressure to consume lots of alcohol?

Pressure to drink at your Christmas work night out

"Many people will be going to Christmas dinners and parties with work colleagues for the first time since 2019, and people will obviously want to relax and enjoy themselves. Unfortunately, in an effort to get the festivities going, some people may feel they can pressure others into drinking, or into drinking more than they want to," says Andrew Misell, director for Wales at Alcohol Change UK.

"Choosing not to drink alcohol should be a decision we can all make freely, that others respect. It's not boring or unsociable. And no one should be made to feel uncomfortable for making that choice, as it can make that decision much harder."

Unfortunately, the fact remains that many of us do feel the pressure to drink at Christmas work nights out.

According to alcohol education charity Drinkaware, drinking "is ingrained within our work culture during the festive season. Pressure to drink in most cases isn't malicious; it may not even be conscious. Most people just want those they're with to have a good time."

The consequences of heavy drinking at your Christmas work night out

Despite our good intentions, a large percentage of us regret how drinking too much alcohol makes us behave in front of work colleagues. In fact, Drinkaware's research reveals that more than a quarter of us have regretted something we did at a Christmas work night out, with alcohol receiving most of the blame.

According to Drinkaware, the most regretted drunken antics include:

  • Kissing, or attempting to kiss a colleague.
  • Criticising a superior or colleague.
  • Active aggression toward a colleague.
  • Over-sharing personal issues.
  • Passing out from alcohol.

Some people have suffered serious consequences as a result. Around half of those who criticised a superior, and about two thirds of those who were aggressive, received official warnings for their behaviour.

Of those surveyed, 38% said they intended not to drink too much, but found themselves caring less as the night went on. A total of 32% had felt the pressure from peers to drink.

Other consequences and risks of heavy drinking

While embarrassment, shame and professional setbacks are enough of a reason to control alcohol intake, the health implications of binge drinking are important. As Drinkaware points out, drinking more than the UK Chief Medical Officers' guidelines of up to 14 units of alcohol spread over a week (typically six pints of beer or six medium glasses of wine) can significantly increase your risk of developing a range of diseases, including seven types of cancer.

Other main consequences of drinking too much alcohol include the increased risk of:

Staying in control of your drinking at your Christmas work night out

"Being armed with the facts could make you feel more confident in resisting pressure, as well as making many of us think twice about topping up a colleague's glass," advises Drinkaware.

You can try the following tactics, recommended by Drinkaware, to gain better control of your drinking this December.

Go completely alcohol-free for the evening

You don't have to avoid alcohol completely, but if you have no desire to drink or are worried about the effects of alcohol on your health, then you shouldn't feel that you must drink alcohol. Drinkaware also advises replacing alcohol with soft drinks, or alcohol-free drink alternatives.

Misell also advises reading Alcohol Change UK's blog on ways to politely refuse drink, if you think you'll be under pressure from colleagues to consume alcohol.

Track how much you are drinking

If you decide you're going to drink alcohol, you can set a limit for how much you're going to drink before you go out. You'll then need to keep a mental note of what alcohol you have as the night goes on. This can be tricky once you've had a drink, but setting a clear goal before you join the Christmas work night out can get you in a motivated mindset.

Alternate your alcoholic drinks with soft drinks

If you decide to drink alcohol and don't want to drink too much at your Christmas work night out, pace yourself by having a soft drink or two after every alcoholic drink. This will help stop you getting dehydrated too. If you're going to start drinking earlier in the day, try sticking to soft drinks for the first couple of hours before you have alcohol.

Eat before or during your work party drinks

Eating plays a big role in how intoxicated you can get from drinking. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach means it's absorbed into your system via the small intestine more quickly. The slower the alcohol is absorbed, the slower it affects your body.

Eating a proper meal before you join your Christmas work night out is advised, as is snacking during the night as you drink if this option is available.

Avoid participating in rounds

While buying rounds of drinks with a few colleagues may seem special, you normally end up drinking at the fastest drinker's pace. Not only might you end up drinking more than you would if you were buying your own drinks, but you'll also spend more too.

Plan in advance how you will get home

One of the more serious consequences of drinking at any event is making unsafe decisions. This is particularly true at the end of the night when you need to make your way home.

Drinkaware strongly advocates coming up with a plan for getting home that doesn't involve driving: "Drinking and driving kills. The only safe advice is to avoid alcohol completely if you're driving. If you're heading out to a Christmas work night out, plan well in advance how you will get home safely, so you don't get caught out on the night. Travel home with people you trust, whether that's in a licensed taxi, on public transport or with a designated driver who didn't drink alcohol."

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