Let’s get one thing straight before we go on – we love workplace Christmas parties, for the following reasons:
- They are a great way for businesses to show gratitude to employees for all the hard work they completed throughout the year.
- They allow teams to connect with one another outside of the usual working environment and may well be the only time in the year the whole business comes together.
- They present a unique opportunity for business leaders to bridge gaps between themselves and those they lead.
And did we mention the food and drink?
Yes, the annual Christmas party is the favourite event of many a workforce. Unfortunately, as the months wear on, it’s looking like our usual Christmas party may well be out the window. As we bounce from level to level of Covid-related restrictions, businesses are left in limbo. Aside from the fact that the Christmas party may well be the least on a long list of worries for Irish businesses, ever-changing rules on social gatherings means that it is difficult, if not impossible, to put any plans in place for an end of year physical celebration.
However, as mournful as we are at the prospect of not being able to gather together for a festive six-course meal, there could be some surprising benefits to not having a corporate Christmas party this year.
Less HR headaches
Usually around this time of year, we are full of advice on how to avoid the usual HR nightmares associated with the corporate Christmas party. Overly zealous partygoers can cause harm to people or property and employers can be held to account for the behaviour of their employees. Simmering workplace tensions can boil over as the alcohol flows, causing a huge headache for the HR team come Monday. There is also the worry of wires getting crossed and employees making unwanted sexual advances toward another employee. This can lead to complaints of sexual harassment and have far reaching consequences for those involved.
Having a socially distanced celebration can help to mitigate most risks from a HR perspective. Of course, the question of what you actually do to replace the usual in-person event can present a problem for those tasked with organising the party. Check out our blog on the matter here.
An opportunity for diversity and inclusion
Companies that make an effort with diversity and inclusion at other times of the year can fall short of standard at Christmas. Although the holiday has in general become more secular in recent years, it is still fundamentally a Christian celebration. It may be easy to forget that not everybody celebrates Christmas, and there may be some employees whose conscience will prevent them from partaking in a religious celebration which does not form part of their own beliefs.
The timing of the in-person party may also unnecessarily exclude certain people from joining. Are there employees within your business that are single parents or have difficulty committing to anything outside of usual working hours? The fact that most office Christmas parties take place during night-time often means that there are some employees that cannot attend. They therefore miss out on all the opportunity to build relationships with their colleagues, unless another celebration is arranged for them alone.
Businesses that normally take part in an event which includes other businesses usually have less control over the format of the party than they would like. However, this year provides the perfect opportunity to trial a more inclusive celebration. Organising a virtual party that is organised to take place online, for example, can be promoted more as a ‘year-end celebration’ or even simply an ‘annual office party’. Having an event online also means that there is no need for a babysitter, so you may even have a better turnout than in non-Covid times.
Less knock-on negative effects
There are a whole range of knock-on effects that can be avoided by not having an in-person celebration. The usual post-party absences aren’t something to worry about, as there is less opportunity for employees to be a) too embarrassed to face their colleagues and/or manager and b) victims of a multiple day hangover. Organisers won’t need to concern themselves with whether employees make it home safely or not. There is less chance of employees’ antics being caught on camera and uploaded to social media, which can cause embarrassment for said employees but also represent the business in a negative light.
Of course, no matter how much we attempt to look on the bright side of things, we are also realistic about the fact that not having a physical event does present challenges for businesses this year. Check out our blog for some top tips from the pros on how to create a Covid-safe event this Christmas!