With the festive season around the corner, you may be thinking about your seasonal celebrations / Christmas parties… This certainly is a topical conversation at the moment, with the changing environment.
If a festive gathering remains on your agenda, here’s some key considerations for your business:
Christmas parties are clearly popular, with 83% of organisations hosting Christmas parties. Such celebrations have been found to boost engagement and enhance company culture by bringing people together and encouraging new employees to integrate within their teams. It could be argued that there is a stronger desire than ever for social work gatherings after 18 months of working from home. Hosting a Christmas party can not only reward your staff, but it can also provide a feeling of stability for your employees during turbulent times and with additional government tax incentives, it’s no surprise that many employees have come to expect a Christmas ‘do’ each year.
Saying ‘Bah Humbug’ to Christmas parties
For some employees Christmas parties can increase anxiety, especially if the office culture can be cliquey or if they are new to the organisation. Not only can it be difficult to organise a Christmas get together that will appeal to all tastes, or to find a suitable venue with limited budget and availability, HR teams often have the task of encouraging as many people as possible to attend. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for office festivities to result in unwanted or unacceptable behaviour because of too much alcohol, or simply forgetting that this is still a work event. Such occasions inevitably fall back to HR to sort out on return to the office, and employers can be liable for actions committed by employees if they cannot demonstrate the reasonable steps taken to prevent such actions.
Avoiding HR Headaches
So, how can we as HR Professionals prevent our festive gatherings from causing people management problems? The key thing is to be pro-active without being a party pooper. It is important to ensure that your workplace policies are up to date and cover the behaviours that are expected from employees aswell as those that are deemed unacceptable. You may also want to include a social media policy that includes social events, to emphasise the importance of respecting others’ privacy and to avoid any fallout online. It is all well and good having these policies in place, but it is vital to ensure these are communicated to staff and there is no harm in sending a gentle reminder before any social events take place.
There are also several simple steps to consider when planning the event itself. Research has shown that 45% of end of year events are referred to as ‘Christmas parties’. Consider whether your event name is sensitive to all cultures and religions within your workforce. Similarly, ensure that all catering, entertainment, and music is respectful to all cultures. If you are providing alcohol at the event limit the availability and ensure alternatives are provided and that staff are encouraged not to drive home after the event.
There is a fine balance of ensuring the team can have fun while looking after their wellbeing. The CIPD have some great advice highlighting that Christmas can be a difficult time for many. Use your leadership teams here, train them in spotting any warning signs of stress or poor mental well-being and in how to hold sensitive conversations. You can also encourage your managers to act as role models to the rest of the team at the social event.
Alternatives to a physcial get together.
During the pandemic, many organisations were forced to move their festive celebrations online and host such events virtually. This negated the need to travel and meant everyone could attend, but it was also harder to keep everyone engaged. If you’re considering a virtual, or hybrid Christmas party there are some great tips available including how to keep the broadcast interactive for those watching from home.
It’s important to remember that engagement looks different for different people. There is no harm in simply asking your people what will motivate them most.
Research has found that more than half of employees would forgo a Christmas party for rewards and benefits spread throughout the year. This figure increases amongst younger demographics, so it is essential to consider the changing dynamics of your workforce as well. CIPD reports that other Christmas perks include 18% of organisations giving gifts to employees and 10% giving additional leave over the festive period.
Overall, make sure that your current festivities are engaging your workforce. If Christmas parties are here to stay, you can still deliver further moments of recognition throughout the year. Keep cultural sensitivities in mind when planning your get togethers, get senior management’s buy in, communicate policies and follow your disciplinary procedures while relying on expert advice if you need to. But most importantly, find joy in your end of year celebrations – whatever form they take. This is a great opportunity to reflect and take stock of the past 12 months, the challenges you’ve overcome, the success you’ve achieved, and look forward to the opportunities that lie ahead.