The after-work happy hour is ubiquitous in the legal profession – so much so, in fact, that written drink-by-drink guides actually exist to help lawyers successfully navigate the challenges of imbibing with co-workers.
This is probably not a good thing. After all, lawyers tend to suffer from alcoholism at much higher rates than other professionals.
Moreover, mixing alcohol with co-workers can lead to all sorts of problems, including decreased productivity, sexual harassment, and the inevitable feeling of exclusion that some employees will experience because they are unable (or unwilling) to attend. The truth is, many people have completely valid reasons for skipping happy hour – from being in recovery to religious prohibitions on drinking to age restrictions.
Nonetheless, legal professionals are social people. We need to get together with others in order to brainstorm ideas, network with potential clients, and bond with one another. In light of the risks associated with alcohol, however, we began to wonder if there are viable alternatives to the age-old happy hour that will allow legal professionals to reach those goals without expecting people to drink. Here are some suggestions.
#1: Host a mocktail party
Who says you need alcohol in order to stand around with co-workers holding a drink in your hand?
In recent years, mocktail bars have become all the rage. Most of them are just like regular bars, but without the booze. What’s nice about mocktail bars is that they allow employees to socialize in a relaxed atmosphere, away from the workplace – which is one of the reasons happy hours have always been so popular.
But what do you do if your city doesn’t yet have an alcohol-free watering hole?
Not to worry. There are dozens of mocktail recipes available that will allow you to host your own mocktail parties either in the office or at someone’s home.
As an added benefit, the host will never have to worry about someone driving home drunk from their gathering, and it’s weeknight-friendly: no hangovers.
Alternatively, you can find other hangout spots like cool local coffee shops and restaurants that specialize in small bites. Aim for locations where people can trickle in, order at their comfort level, and leave without waiting for the whole group to finish.
#2: Go to an escape room
One of the things people have always enjoyed about happy hours is that co-workers tend to loosen up, thus allowing them to bond in ways that simply don’t happen in the office.
Well, guess what else promotes bonding? Stress. No, we’re not suggesting you start torturing employees in order to bond…but we are technically suggesting that you lock them up.
Specifically, we’re talking about replacing happy hour with a trip to an escape room. If you’re not familiar with the concept, escape rooms are basically life-sized puzzles that require a team to find clues and work together so they can get out of a locked room.
Not only can they be extremely fun, but they’ve proven to be a great team-building activity. As an added bonus, teams can visit escape rooms in person or online. So, if your firm is still working remotely, this is an activity everyone can participate in from home.
Try scheduling an escape room adventure during regular work hours to increase participation. People with family responsibilities or other commitments outside of office hours will appreciate the opportunity to connect, too.
#3: Take an adult field trip
Do you remember what it felt like as a kid when the day came for your class to go on a field trip? It almost didn’t matter where you were going. The whole class was pumped just to go somewhere different for a day.
Who was the genius that decided we should stop doing that as adults?
As it turns out, there are all sorts of adult field trips your firm can take to promote relaxation, bonding, and team building. Whether it’s a trip to a local museum, a group culinary class, or just about anything else, your team will be thrilled to get away.
Moreover, the new activity will spark conversations, conversations will spark bonding, and before you know it, you’ve achieved the best of the happy hour without the alcohol.
#4: Host a scavenger hunt
Another great (and fun) non-alcoholic activity for your firm is an organized scavenger hunt.
In a scavenger hunt, teams must find hidden clues and then use those clues to either find a list of items or to perform certain acts outlined by the organizer (e.g.: approach a stranger on the street and convince that person to tell you their middle name).
If you pit teams against each other, a well designed hunt feeds the natural lawyerly instinct to compete and win.
Additionally, scavenger hunts are great team-building exercises that encourage bonding. They’re also extremely versatile – you could host a scavenger hunt within the office, within the city at large, or even a completely virtual scavenger hunt for firms that are still working remotely. Some team building companies will host a professional game for you over video.
#5: Organize group volunteering
It’s never a bad idea to cut down on alcohol consumption, but isn’t it a shame to lose the “happy” part of happy hour? Well, the good news is, your firm doesn’t have to sacrifice happiness when it chooses more inclusive extracurricular activities.
Indeed, while alcohol use has actually been shown to increase depression, volunteering is an activity that truly increases happiness. In light of that, it makes total sense to organize group volunteering opportunities and call them “happy hours.”
Whatever your firm chooses to do in place of group drinking, the outcome is sure to be net positive. Liability risks will go down, employee happiness will go up, and nobody in the firm is likely to feel left out.