Why British Bosses Are Rethinking the Pub Social

British bosses are rethinking traditional pub socials due to changing work culture and shifting attitudes towards alcohol, especially among Gen Z employees. Discover the new trends in workplace gatherings.

Traditionally, the go-to venue for work get-togethers has been the local pub. However, this staple of British work culture is now under threat as employers adapt to the changing attitudes of a new generation of workers.

“Younger employees with healthier lifestyles don’t see it as a rite of passage to go out and get absolutely wasted,” says Emma Morris, director of Embrace HR. This shift in perspective is forcing companies to rethink their approach to workplace social events.

As Generation Z professionals increasingly turn away from alcohol, businesses are under pressure to find alternative venues for work events. A recent report from Rare, a UK graduate recruitment company specialising in diversity, suggested law firms should consider activities like cooking, painting, and pottery classes to avoid excluding Muslim lawyers and other staff who don’t drink alcohol.

Beyond concerns about inclusivity, HR departments are also wary of the potential for bad behaviour associated with drinking. Morris explains, “If you arrange something that ends up with trouble, through drinking or drug-taking, employers can be held liable.”

Paul Pavli, a hospitality consultant and former managing director of Punch Taverns, notes that behaviour once considered acceptable is now scrutinised more closely. “If you’re on a work social now, everybody’s on duty,” he says.

Data supports the trend away from alcohol: around a fifth of people aged 18 to 24 now abstain completely, according to Drinkaware. This indicates that a significant portion of the future workforce will not drink, prompting pubs and other venues to adapt.

Simon Emeny, CEO of Fuller’s, mentions that over half of their pubs now offer draft no-alcohol products. “You can come to our pubs for work events and you don’t have to drink alcohol,” he says.

Entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity, launching venues that offer engaging activities like mini-golf, axe-throwing, ping pong, and virtual clay pigeon shooting. Clive Watson, co-founder of City Pub Company, remarks, “[Employers are] definitely looking for more of an experience – it gets the crowd going and isn’t just about drinking.”

Richard Harpham, who runs the Boom Battle Bar chain, notes that companies want activities appealing to a diverse workforce. “Employers now are trying to find something that’s going to appeal as much to the lady in accounts as the guy in the legal team.”

These activities are also more likely to entice remote workers back to the office. Saxon Moseley, head of leisure and hospitality at RSM, states, “Going for an experience is more likely to entice people to come in than simply to go for a drink.”

However, there are concerns about inclusivity for older workers. Some venues and activities may cater more to younger employees, raising questions about their appeal to all age groups.

Despite this, companies are embracing these new venues. Tom Snellock, founder of Clays, which offers virtual reality clay pigeon shooting, reports significant corporate bookings, with 70% of revenue coming from such events. He highlights the inclusive nature of their offerings, with menus accommodating various dietary preferences.

Traditional pub companies are also adapting. Stonegate, the UK’s largest pub company, recently announced plans to launch an immersive karaoke chain called Careless Whisper.

Tim Martin, founder and chairman of JD Wetherspoon, believes that while formal work events might change, informal socials among colleagues will continue. “Formal work events orchestrated by management are difficult with modern employment laws and bore the pants off many participants anyway,” he says, predicting that casual after-work drinks will remain popular.

In summary, as work culture evolves, British bosses are exploring new, engaging ways to foster team bonding beyond the traditional pub social. Whether this trend will permanently shift the landscape of work socials or coexist with traditional pub outings remains to be seen.

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Why British Bosses Are Rethinking the Pub Social