How Long Should You Stay At Happy Hour?

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How long should you stay at happy hour?

The office happy hour is a game that most of us would rather not play if given the option. Does anyone in a conventional office setting really like their coworkers? I mean think about that question for a minute. What do your work friends have in common with you outside of the fact that they work ten feet away from you forty hours a week? Probably not a whole lot. Like if you saw one of your coworkers at a bar but you didn’t know them, what are the chances you sidle up next to that person and ask for their phone number to hang out? Zero percent. Zilch. Nada.

I think for most people, the thought of spending one more minute than is necessary with a coworker would be paramount to water boarding. We attend happy hours with people from work because alcohol has the ability to make just about anything tolerable. Plus, like I said, you want to look like you’re making an effort in front of the people who pay you every other week. So, yeah. We’ve all been to an office happy hour before even though you’d much rather just go home and get those fucking dress pants off that you’ve worn four days in a row. But what is an appropriate time to hang around? How long should you stay at a happy hour before it turns into you doing something regrettable?

Thirty Minutes Or Less

A half hour at the bar might as well be five minutes. A half hour at the bar isn’t even enough time to finish a drink. You need to be at the office happy hour longer than a half hour for a few reasons. One, because your boss is there. You know that unspoken rule for all good employees about staying at your desk until your boss leaves? The same thing applies at happy hour. You can’t leave before your boss does. Add on the fact that all of the other low-level dirtbags are trying to get a word in with your boss and a half hour isn’t enough time for you to get a one-on-one sit down with him or her. If you value upward mobility in your company, then stay longer than a half hour. Nurse the first drink and bide your time until you see a free moment where you can talk to your boss about your future there.

One Hour

By the end of hour one, you’ll usually be able to tell where an office happy hour is headed. In some instances, it could be that everyone is still there, but what usually happens towards the end of the first hour is a separation between the under-30 crowd and people with real responsibilities. The 45-year-old with two kids has had one beer, and she needs to pick Scott up from soccer practice or whatever the hell it is that Scott does on a Thursday at 6:30 p.m. Leaving after an hour all comes back to where the boss is. Is he/she still ordering drinks? Putting a jacket on and glancing at their watch? Read the situation. If you haven’t had a chance to discuss where you stand with the company, I say stick around. I’m betting that most of you don’t have anything better to do with your time.

Two Hours Or More

After two hours, people are beginning to show signs of public intoxication. Slurred speech. Shit-talking coworkers who have already left. And probably someone who takes it upon themselves to order a round of the shots. This is your cue to leave. Maybe stick around and take the shot. But never, under any circumstances, be in that group of the last four of five people from work still at the bar. I’ve been harping on this point, but I’ll say it again. When your boss leaves, you leave. Plain and simple. Make a good impression on him/her and tell your coworkers good riddance. Text your friends who are undoubtedly at another bar somewhere and meet up with them. Two hours drinking with coworkers should be more than enough time for you to have shown your face, made a lasting impression on some people who make more money than you, and get a few free drinks out of the whole thing.

Look, I’d say the sweet spot for staying at a cube jockey happy hour is an hour and a half. The biggest takeaway from this is that you need to keep it under control. Mix a water in with those vodka sodas you’re drinking. There isn’t any anxiety quite like waking up the Friday after a happy hour and asking yourself if you said anything problematic to your coworkers. And sometimes the big wigs in the office don’t even show up. If that’s the case, I’d recommend skipping entirely but I also haven’t been to something like this in six-ish months, so what do I know? Stay relatively sober and make good impressions. That’s a motto not only for office happy hours, but life in general.

Image via Shutterstock

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