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Drinking at Work? Some Employers See Benefits

Wavebreak Media/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Drinking on the job?  Some employers say they're fine with that.  In fact, some companies will even buy the booze, on the theory that a little tippling makes for a happier employee -- and maybe, too, as a new study suggests, a more creative one.

Though a variety of companies today serve alcohol to employees, ad agencies hold the liquor-fueled torch highest.  The ranks of liquor-serving firms have recently included BBDO, Grey, J. Walter Thompson, Mindshare and TBWA/Chiat/Day.

In New York, J. Walter Thompson has in its offices a 50-foot-long bar with pedestal stools that would put many commercial bars to shame.

"Yes, we have a bar," says a spokesperson, "and it is frequently accessed.  We think it incentivizes and enthuses employees.  It's generally used for off-hours consumption, but that's not to say there isn't on-hours consumption as well."

Ad agency Kirshenbaum, Bond, Senecal + Partners hosts internal, open-bar events called Trolleys.  The name comes from a drink cart, known affectionately as the trolley, that 20 years ago rolled around the agency dispensing cocktails.  It since has been retired, but the liquor still flows, including brands belonging to agency clients.

Jonah Bloom, head of digital strategy at Kirshenbaum, says the firm tries to make Trolleys "a fairly regular thing."  Employees need a chance to bond, he says -- to get away from their desks for a while and have fun mingling.

"We work hard," he says.  "Most employees get in around 9 a.m., but they may work as late as 9 p.m. or 10 p.m. or even later.  Clients recognize that.  If we have a bit of fun, that's okay."

Plus, a drink or two has been known to aid the creative process.

"Say there's a group of employees standing around chatting," says Bloom of the Trolleys.  "They're just having fun, having a couple of beers together.  It's a social occasion.  They may not set out to solve a problem.  But somebody comes up with an idea, and somebody else builds on that."

Just how much credit should go to booze, he isn't sure.

"I'm not sure it's the alcohol," he says of the Trolleys' success at solving problems.  "It could just be the socializing.  But who knows?  [Alcohol] may act as lubricant."

Recent evidence suggests he's right.  A study released last week by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago finds that a little bit of alcohol -- just enough to register 0.075 on a breathalyzer -- can help your mind explore unorthodox solutions.  Sometimes, researchers found, having a little less focus can be helpful.

The report, "Uncorking The Muse: Alcohol Intoxication Facilitates Creative Problem Solving" was published in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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