Company Culture

Why The Yard says beer only belongs at happy hour

More companies are considering dropping booze from the break room menu. Here's one's take.

Refrigeration vessels for beverages made of fermented grain.

(Photo by Flickr user Didriks, used under a Creative Commons license)

A trend we’re expecting to be talking a lot more about: booze in the office, or not.

With almost every startup, and now every company, trying to create the image of the best place to work, perks like arcade games, lavish company outings, free food and lots of alcohol seems to be a new norm.

As an organization that has always prioritized a focused environment, The Yard’s choice not to serve all-day alcoholic beverages on tap has been a core principle since we started. I’m a cofounder of the company.

That isn’t to say that alcohol is restricted at The Yard. We host a variety of events that include alcohol, but believe that every distraction has a time or place. While not everyone may agree with us, it’s something that has made The Yard one of the most productive places to work since it was established in 2011.

Why did we make the decision? And what should you consider for your company? Here’s what we’ve asked ourselves and have learned from our choice.

What does beer on tap say about your company culture?

If you’re looking to add “fun” to your company culture, taps and new drafts may send the wrong message. While the added element of onsite beverages may encourage socialization and a casual environment, are you really helping them achieve their true potential?

While it may not sound fun to admit, the workplace is a place to accomplish work. Employees are more interested in career development and the value of their role than tons of perks. If all your employees look forward to is the free beer at the end (or the middle) of the day, is that “culture” coming through as a positive addition to the workplace?

For some, it’s an uncomfortable environment

If you’re trying to create an inclusive workplace, making alcohol a part of the everyday environment is the first way to alienate people. Since many people are sober for their own reasons or are made uncomfortable by an alcohol-fueled social environment, companies could choose alternative perks to allow the employee to make their own decisions.


One of The Yard’s community members, Jamil Dewji, who leads sales ops at Learning Machine, told me recently that not having alcohol in the office helps forge better relationships outside of it. “It forces us to go out and explore all the cool bars in our neighborhood,” he said.

There’s a reason why those same bars have to apply for liquor licenses: responsibility.

A 2004 study by Cornell University researchers found a linkage between permissive workplace drinking norms and sexual harassment of employees. While sexual harassment and assault cannot be fully blamed on the presence of alcohol, the study showed that females, in particular, are at higher risk of gender harassment in these situations.

Some companies, like Github, Yelp and WeWork are starting to put restrictions on their taps by limiting amounts, providing designated areas, or through policies that restrict drinking while working.

What impression is being made?

If you have investors, partners or clients who drop in occasionally, what will they think of the employee who decides to have a beer in the middle of the afternoon? One thing we often hear from our members is that they want a professional workplace.

Our member Shana O’Toole, who founded the Due Process Institute, mentioned to me that in her role, that a touch of professionalism is a priority. “Although [I’m not opposed] to having a drink or two, I prefer not to have alcohol on-tap in a workspace,” she said. “I can tell you that I would not have my business in a setting that looks like a college party.”

An opportunity for wellness

Most companies are offering beer not only as a way to inject perceived “coolness” into culture, but also as a trendy way to take a break at work. Wouldn’t you rather find a way to help them unwind rather than escape (especially one that may leave you tired, bloated, and in a foggy state)?

While it is definitely having a moment now, personal wellness and self-care has always been a helpful way to take a break. You could encourage your team to go to an exercise class together to blow off steam, inject some healthy competitive activity, or provide resources for short, guided meditations.


When we think about the big picture of booze, what many of us are trying to accomplish with serving beer in the office is in providing a competitive perk and amenity.

But now, we wonder how we can help our community, not impair them.

After all, have you made your best decisions after having a drink?

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