The Office Bar is Open

happy hourHappy hour is a time-honored tradition. Employees head to a local bar after work, where they decompress, commiserate, have a drink or two, and maybe even maul a few of their favorite karaoke tunes.

Some employers, however, are taking taverns out of the equation, with an article in today’s Wall Street Journal focusing on a few companies bringing the booze right to the office for employees.

Boston-based advertising firm Arnold Worldwide, for example, is home to a beer-vending machine—christened Arnie by employees—where staffers often gather to imbibe bottles of home-brewed beer and share small talk.

Other firms are opting for “full bars and beer fridges, installing on-site taverns and digitized kegs, and even deploying engineering talent to design futuristic drink dispensers,” according to the article.

At least part of the motivation for all of this, of course, is to encourage camaraderie, facilitate the exchange of ideas, keep employees at the office longer and even to attract top talent.

Indeed, “some firms tout their free booze as a way to signal to in-demand workers that their company isn’t stuffy, bland and corporate,” according to the article, which makes note of online-storage firm Dropbox’s recruiting website, which promotes “Whiskey Fridays” as a significant perk for its employees.

(We’re not sure what exactly “Whiskey Fridays” entail, and a Dropbox spokeswoman declined to comment to WSJ. But the concept seems fairly self-explanatory, and we’re guessing Fridays are probably fun for a lot of the company’s employees.)

Still, HR leaders—who sometimes have to take the “stuffy, bland and corporate” position—should have some obvious concerns regarding alcohol consumption at work.

Employment attorneys seem to have the same worries, the article says, noting that encouraging drinking in the workplace can lead to driving while intoxicated, assault, sexual harassment or rape. Allowing drinking on the job may also make some employees uncomfortable while excluding others, such as recovering addicts, or those who don’t drink for health or religious reasons.

Firms such as Thrillist Media Group have given these potential problems some thought, of course. Teams at the New York-based digital media company are allowed to enjoy beers at the end of the day, and regularly hold liquor tastings.

Ben Lerer, Thrillist’s founder, is fine with all of that, but encourages employees to know their limits.

“This is a group of adults,” he told WSJ. “I’m fine if you are having a beer out on your desk, sticking around and doing more work and enjoying yourself doing it.”

And if an employee starts to get tipsy, he says, his message is simple: “Go home.”

Arnold Worldwide keeps an eye on employee alcohol intake, the article says. Workers receive three-to-five drink credits per month, and managers can dole out more as rewards for employees.

It’s simple to see the risks associated with letting employees crack open a few cold ones at work. But is there a link between the occasional on-site cocktail and a more engaged, productive workforce? These firms seem to think so. “Occasional” may be the key word, though, with moderation—as is so often the case—being the key.