How to… Survive at Work when you’re Hungover
I have to confess that when I was asked to cover this topic, my instinct was to perform a little side-step and flee for the hills. After all, as professional things go, the combination of alcohol and work is a contentious area. In a climate where it’s an employers market and competition is tight, turning up for work with a blatant hangover is akin to clotheslining Harry Styles in front of a group of frenzied teenagers. You’re asking for trouble.
That said, I’m not a job-snob and I woke up this morning feeling rather bold. So, let’s do this!
It’s amazing how short-sighted we can be when we succumb to the temptation of “just one more” on a work night. It starts with a well-meaning glass of wine and before you know it, you’ve cajoled Sheila from switchboard into starting a conga. Four hours later, the alarm wakes you up for work and you feel like you’ve been run over by a combine harvester. You manage to make it as far as the bathroom before the flashbacks of you and Sheila singing Dana’s “all kind of everything” on the karaoke start to haunt you.
So, if it happens to you… how do you survive?
1. Duvet Day
Your first move should be trying to avoid the issue completely. If you work in a flexible environment, call your boss and see whether you can have short-notice leave. Failing that, see whether you can arrange a later start and buy yourself some extra recovery time.
Keep the conversation short, polite and relatively superficial. There’s no need to go into gory detail about how you’ve just woken up with half a doner kebab stuck to your face and a mouth as dry as Gadaffi’s sandal.
Hopefully, you’ll manage to negotiate a day off. At which point, you can slink back under your duvet and be grateful that last tequila didn’t end your career.
If avoidance isn’t possible, it’s time to go into complete survival mode. Which brings me to…
2. Sharpen Up
Oh, I know… you feel like death! Your head’s banging, you feel sick and you just want to sleep. But you’re in work. You’re getting paid and quite frankly, you need to get your job done without getting sacked.
Your first step is to take a good look in the mirror. Chances are that you look like a recently dug up zombie who spent the night stretched out in a skip. Sort out the clothes – get your collar straight, fix your buttons, put your shoes on the right feet. Stuff like this is the first thing that alerts the boss to Little Miss Hangover the following morning. Whip out the refreshing moisturizer, face spritz or wet wipes and sort out your face – you’re aiming for a look of well-rested freshness.
Secondly, it’s time to bring out the coffee. Scratch that… it’s time to bring out ALL the coffee. Don’t forget the energy drinks too. Basically, whatever it takes to perk you up and help create the illusion of an alert professional, rather than the depleted shell you actually are.
When that’s done, it’s time for step three – heavily investing in restoration activities:
- Re-hydrate and re-balance by drinking lots of water.
- Pop some aspirin/ibuprofen/whatever to sort out the headache.
- Get some food in you to mop up the residual alcohol and settle your stomach.
- Get rid of that nasty breath with some mints or chewing gum.
3. Minimise the Impacts
When you feel like your head might fall off if you move too quickly, it’s probably not the best time to do all that important stuff you’ve been meaning to do. You know what I mean – rewiring that children’s home, negotiating the house sale, ringing a difficult customer or performing heart surgery. That kind of stuff.
If you have a relatively autonomous role, then adjust your day. Load all the bread & butter stuff (you know what I mean – the humdrum, adminy-type stuff that you could do in your sleep) to the front of your day. This way, not only are you working from the get go, you spend the time where you’re at your worst doing the type of stuff you’d be hard-pressed to mess up. Keep your head down and hopefully you’ll fly beneath the radar.
If you can’t do that and you find yourself faced with task from hell – requiring energy, concentration and every other capability you don’t have right now – then you have an other option. But it’s predicated on the fact that no-one knows you went out last night. If everyone thinks you spent the night knitting, reading a Saga Magazine or watching Happy Days re-runs, then you might be able to swing the “I have a headache” and “I’m not feeling too well” excuses to your advantage and buy yourself some space.
However, if everyone knows you went out, then I’m afraid you’re doomed. Everyone knows you’re hungover… so either get on with it or publicly admit defeat.
4. Be Discrete
We’ve all worked with a member of the “I’m so hungover” club. You know who I mean… the person who brazenly wears their hangover as a massive badge of pride. The one who tells everyone – from the lady in the canteen to the CEO – that they had just a little too much to drink last night.
And as amusing as their tales of last night’s antics can be – I mean who wouldn’t want to steal a canal barge, swig rum and pretend they were a pirate – when it comes to the professional part of the story, it rarely has a happy ending.
Think about it for a second. What you’re basically doing is telling your boss and colleagues “I like you and I like my job, but you know… I don’t really care enough to be at my best when I turn up for work”. Announcing your hangover to the world can have can have a significant impact on your career. It can erode your credibility, savage your integrity and destroy your perceived professionalism.
So keep your mouth zipped and keep sipping that coffee.
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