What’s the true cost of a work-hard, play-hard culture?


How do you identify a culture that promotes excessive drinking? And how do you establish whether it’s a pervasive drinking culture that excels beyond the occasional Friday afternoon celebrations?
group consoling a colleague
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Is building a work-hard, play-hard culture a good thing? Or can it be detrimental to a thriving workplace? I was at a conference recently where I saw the effects of the work-hard, play-hard culture for myself. As attendees piled into the conference room, so did the smell of alcohol. And the bloodshot eyes and several late arrivals was a dead give-away that the night before had been a big one. As the day continued, I could see the hangovers worsen as several participants from the previous night’s festivities even struggled to keep their eyes open.

As a person who battled alcoholism into my late twenties, I notice these things, and I know what the true cost to business performance, culture, and the individual a work hard, play hard culture can be.

The question is how do you identify a culture that promotes excessive drinking? And how do you establish whether it’s a pervasive drinking culture that excels beyond the occasional Friday afternoon celebrations? Not only that, but if company results are good, how do you approach the conversation with your team? While you might be thinking it’s too impossible to change a culture that is already established, here’s why you should:


It goes without saying that safety is a huge risk factor. A highly alcohol-centric environment is more likely to result in injury or death, particularly in those occupations involving heavy machinery or driving vehicles.

Workplace Relationships

Workplace relationships is between co-workers as well as clients and customers. In a work-hard, play-hard culture, the environment can negatively impact behaviours between all stakeholders. Not only is there a greater likelihood of unprofessional behaviour, but it can also promote resentment and a lack of trust both internally and externally.


Alcohol greatly reduces our ability to focus and to produce quality work. Our decision-making skills are affected leading to operational disruption and absenteeism.


While you might think you’re creating a fun culture, excessive ‘play-hard’ leads to long-term alcohol related burdens that attributes to employer liabilities and compensation. Not only that, but it costs a lot of money to replace and train new employees.

And the list can go on and on.

If your intention is to build a healthy environment where individuals can really evolve, then you want to focus on creating a culture of high-performance, not one based on wins and other short-term markers.

We need to remember that as leaders we set the pace. The way we conduct ourselves will determine what is acceptable. Leaders create the standards, and we need to ensure that we become a walking example of the behaviours that we want to promote. Anything to the contrary may be seen as hypocrisy.

So how do you begin to create a high-performing culture?

Moving away from the work-hard, play-hard culture towards a more sustainable and high-performing one isn’t easy, especially if the consensus is that high-performance equals business results. This is where your company values come into play, to lay the ground rules for how you want your business to go about its conduct.

If you’re looking to develop better team habits, you need to educate the benefits and align your people to a more optimised way of living and working.

In my experience, the most effective approach is to shift towards health and wellness. This can be done through the development of a health and wellness program that focuses on every single aspect of your employees’ development, beyond the skills to simply do the job. The elements of a successful health and wellness program may range due to the nature of your firm, but all programs should be geared towards helping employees increase their capacity for resilience. This can be done by focusing on diet, exercise, and other wellness activities such as meditation.

I have witnessed firsthand the positive impact of health and wellness initiatives and how they can change lives for the better. By restructuring old habits and shifting towards a healthier and more sustainable way of life, you will lead your people towards their better selves whilst simultaneously enhancing business performance.

When push comes to shove, you can promote your people or pay them more money and you might keep some good employees in the process. But by helping them become better overall in work and at home, by enabling them to transform, you will influence long-lasting success for individuals and for your business.

RJ Singh is a corporate and ultra-endurance athlete and the creator of Ultrahabits. Find out more at Peak Performance with RJ Singh: Ultra Habits for Ultra Performance