How to deal with a hangover at work

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Nobody wants to bring a hangover into the office. But sometimes it happens. So what should you do? Fake it? Admit it? Call in sick? Sarah Ivens, former editor of OK Magazine U.S., and numerous Modern Girl etiquette books, has some advice. Not that she has any personal experience with this situation.

How to deal with a hangover at work

If you have to come to the office with a hangover, how do you manage to function given the harsh lighting, cubicles, ringing phones and bustle of everyday work? Sarah Ivens has some great advice:

Is there anything that you can do before the hangover to manage the expectations of your co-workers?

  • If you’re planning a big night out -- recognize that they’re not all planned -- and you know you're going to be drinking a lot, DON'T mention this to your boss. Don't tell anyone that you're expecting a heavy night if you think you're going to be in a bad state the next day.

Should you just avoid drinking at all on a work night?

  • Sometimes you just can't avoid it. We've all got to have fun. It’s not all work, it's play as well.
Is there anything can you do to "prepare" for a pending hangover at work?
  • Try to plan your schedule to be as light as possible for the day that follows a big night out. Don’t book any meetings, don’t book any reviews with your boss. If you can, schedule a boring day of answering e-mails or signing off on invoices or anything you can do at your own pace in peace and quiet at your cubicle. Limiting the time you have to interact with coworkers or management is a smart move if you are dealing with a hangover at work.

What you can do before drinking to lessen the ill effects of a hangover?
  • Have a supply of pain relievers and a two-liter bottle of water for your desk.
  • If you're not going to have a good hearty meal before you go out drinking, try to get some kind of complex carbs in your system. Also consider drinking milk. It works like a miracle because it lines your stomach and makes you feel good for your outing.
Once you've got one, how do you treat a hangover?
  • Make sure you eat something. And drink as many fluids as you can, but avois too much caffeine because that will give you the shakes. (Then you'll have a hangover with the highs and the lows of caffeine.) Instead, have orange juice -- vitamin C is fabulous. Keep the orange juice and the water coming. Remember to take those pain relievers as well.

What do you do if people ask if you are hungover?

  • You can’t really pretend you’re not. Just be honest about it or otherwise you'll just look silly. And don't stay home and pretend you've got food poisoning.
How long is your hangover likely to last?
  • Hangovers typically last anywhere from one to two days. The older you are, the longer hangovers tend to last. Your body becomes less able to cope with it. So try to drink less as you get older.
  • A big night out on a Thursday is better than other work nights because you only have Friday to get through and everyone is in a bit of a weekend mood anyway. But if you’re going out and drinking a lot on a Monday, you’re going to be stuck dealing with a hangover at the office for a couple of days.
Transcript

LISA: I'm Lisa Birnbach for howdini.com. Holiday party time could mean a lot of drinking, could mean a lot of hangovers. What do you do if you come to work with a hangover? Sarah Ivens is with us; she's the editor-in-chief with OK magazine in America and the author of many modern-girl etiquette books. Hi Sarah.

SARAH: Hi.

LISA: You look beautiful. How do you know if somebody is hung over and how do they manage — with the lighting and the cubicles and the whole thing — to function?

SARAH: Office hangovers are a nightmare because you are trapped for eight hours or sometimes even longer, and you're just trapped; and you have to get through the day and it’s a nightmare and every minute seems to last forever. So there are a few things you can do to make the day go quicker and to hide your hangover from your boss. Really, I mean, you shouldn’t be showing it with all your team either because it looks really unprofessional, but your boss is the main problem.
So, I think if you’re planning a big night out — they’re not all planned, sometimes you've got a big event coming up and you know you're going to be drinking a lot and out to the early hours of the morning — so what you should do the day before is not mention this to your boss.

LISA: Well, maybe you shouldn't even do it on a work night.

SARAH: Well, you can't help that. We've all gotta have fun, it’s not all work, play as well, Lisa. come on. So you have to not mention this to your boss: "Oh, I’m expecting a heavy night tonight” or say, “It’s my sister’s 30th birthday and we're going out for tequila shots.” Right, don’t do that, don’t mention it. You know, don’t mention it at all if you think you're going to be in a bad state the next day. So don’t mention it and also plan your diary for the next day. Don’t book any meetings, don’t book any, you know, reviews with your boss, don’t plan anything too heavy. If you can, if you know you've got a bit of warning about this night out, for the next day you should really schedule a boring day of answering e-mails or signing off invoices or anything you can really do on your own in peace and quiet at your cubicle without having to, you know, interact with any, anyone really. That would be lovely, wouldn’t it. So there are two things in the office you can do at a practical level. Then also keep some painkillers at your desk and get a two-liter bottle of water there in preparation, keep it ready, because you know you're going to need it the next day.

LISA: Coffee, juice, hair of the dog — what are your anecdotes?

SARAH: Well, for the day before your go out — if you know your going to be going out — if the chances of having a good hearty meal aren’t going to be there then eat before you go. Go out at 5 o'clock, leave the office for 10 minutes, go out and get something — complex carbs — down you. You know, milk is a miracle, people say milk lines your stomach and makes you feel perfect, good for your outing, sorts you out. So make sure you eat something because that will really help the next day. So that in place, the next day what you should be eating is more. You know, as much as you can, basically, because calories don’t count when you’re hungover. It’s great. So really just have a few bagels as early as you can, greasy bacon sandwiches, that’s big in England where I’m from — we love those. They're really really good for you. And drink as much as you can — not so much caffeine because that will give you the shakes. Then you'll have the hangover and the highs and the lows and the hangover and the shakes and you'll be all over the place. So you'll be like a wired drunk and they're quite dangerous in the office. So avoid the caffeine, orange juice, vitamin C is fabulous. So keep the orange juice coming and keep the water coming. Even if you feel like you can’t possible drink any more, just keep plowing through, just do it and taking the painkillers as well — definitely.

LISA: When people ask you, "boy are you hungover?"

SARAH: You can’t really pretend you’re not. It's really embarrassing, I mean I’ve got a team of 50 and the day after the Christmas party this year I’ve got phone calls from people pretending they have throat infections or food poisoning. Or even more, sort of that “I’ve got a sore leg” and I was just like, “Please don’t lie to me. You’re hungover, you can’t come into the office. “I’m disappointed in you” — that’s a good word for bosses to use. “I'm disappointed, but just tell it how it is.” So if someone asks, are you hung over, you just have to say, “Yeah, I am, I’m sorry, but I’m getting there and I’m still doing my work and it’s fine; and no, I haven’t been sick in the toilets. I’m fine, I’m absolutely fine. Just be honest about it or otherwise you'll just look silly.

LISA: And anyway, how long is your hangover likely to last?

SARAH: Well, the older you get the longer. Mine last whole weekends now, it's fabulous.

LISA: Is that right?

SARAH: Yeah, yes. Your body gets less able to cope with it as you get older.

LISA: The headache and everything?

SARAH: So try to drink less as you get older as well.

LISA: Rules to live by.

SARAH: So, you know, a night out on a Thursday is okay because you only have Friday to get through and everyone is in a bit of a weekend mood anyway. But if you’re going out and drinking a lot on a Monday, you’re buggered, basically.

LISA: Mmm…Sarah, I'm going to have to change my plans. Thanks for being here. For howdini, I'm Lisa Birnbach.

meet theexpert
  • Sarah Ivens

    Sarah Ivens Author and Former Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine Sarah Ivens, author and former Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine, is a born and bred Londoner who moved to New York to launch OK! Weekly Magazine in April 2005. more about this expert »

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