The work Christmas party is more than just another corporate event. It’s an investment in your people and a thank you for their hard work. For employees, the end-of-the-year party is a great occasion to unwind with the people that they spend most of their working days with, in a less formal atmosphere. It’s also a chance to talk to those who they might not be working with on a daily basis.
Ultimately, the purpose of the office Christmas party is to show your employees that they are valued and that their employers appreciate their work contribution to the organisation.
However, the Christmas party season can be a source of stress for HR teams who are responsible for the employees’ health and wellbeing. It’s not a secret that many employees will indulge in too much alcohol on the company’s expense which could have unpleasant, embarrassing and even dangerous consequences. Any kind of inappropriate behaviour at a work event can easily become an HR issue.
This isn’t only an ethical challenge for companies. The duty of care puts employers in a position of responsibility for the health and safety of employees attending work events. It’s crucial to prepare for what may happen to minimise the risks and ensure that everyone, including the HR teams, can enjoy the festive celebrations.
Communicate Your Official Policy
As mentioned, employers have a duty of care towards employees therefore from the legal perspective it’s crucial to have an official policy in place. While communicating it ahead of the Christmas event it may seem like an obvious piece of advice, many businesses neglect the importance of clearly reiterating it prior to the party.
Here a few tips on how to effectively communicate your official policy to your employees
Issue a written statement explaining what your official policy is and highlighting the elements that are the most relevant to the occasion.
Include the types of situations that could be considered to be breaching this policy, including any inappropriate or dangerous behaviour.
Make sure to verbally highlight the main points included in your policy.
Gently remind the employees about possible consequences of misconduct.
Highlight that your policy refers to both - real and virtual world, including social media.
If you’re concerned over the message reaching all employees, you may want to consider asking employees to review and sign a document that provides company policy and guidelines and that informs employees that they are liable for their behavior at company-sponsored events.
Be Prepared If You're Hosting a Party with Alcohol
Serving alcohol at work-related events is widely accepted and even expected by employees. When it comes to serving alcohol, it’s important to minimize the legal risks your organization may face, yet not let these worries to be a driver of your decisions.
Providing an open bar can be seen as an act of encouraging the staff to drink more than the average amount. If you do provide an open bar and unlimited amount of alcohol, make sure to serve plenty of alternatives such as soft drinks. These should be varied and easily accessible to all attending the event. Serving food before and during the course of event will also help to keep the situation under control.
What’s more, if you provide alcoholic beverages at the work party and suspect that your employees might find it difficult to find a safe transport back home, you should consider arranging some form transportation. If you’re trying to avoid additional costs, but still want to serve alcoholic drinks, make sure to remind your employees about the importance of avoiding drink-driving situations and advice them on how they can safely return back from the event.
When it comes to inclusion, there is plenty of aspects to consider, from naming the party, to choosing and preparing venue, to selecting the menu and entertainment. When creating the guest lists, make sure to include and invite all employees, also those on maternity or sick leave. What’s more, if you employ staff with any disabilities, you should make sure that the venue you pick for your party is accessible to everyone regardless of whether they confirm their attendance or not. It’s important to take under consideration that some of your employees might represent religious minorities so to be fully inclusive, aim at making them feel welcomed as well by avoiding suggestions that your party is a religious or spiritual celebration.
TIP: Some organisations already started calling their annual events “festive” or “holiday” to avoid using the word “Christmas” and to fully reflect the inclusive character of the party.
Highlight The Recognition
The office Christmas party or other end-of-the-year event is an occasion to thank your employees for their hard work throughout the year and recognize some of their achievements. There are a few ways to implement recognition into your celebrations and make it fun for all attendees:
1. Celebrate the new joiners
Welcome everyone who joined the company that year by giving them a small welcome gift, a branded and personalised card or simply address them in your welcome speech.
2. Organise award ceremony
While it’s an old trick that was done many times, the award ceremonies are still a popular, fun and effective way of rewarding those who excelled during the year.
3. Create the “wall of fame”
Incorporate photos, events and mentions from the past year into your party decor by creating the “wall of fame”. It’s another opportunity to show the employees that their contribution to the business means more than just "the job".
4. Recognize non-work achievements
Your employees might be doing some incredible things outside of work. They might be volunteering, having great achievements in sports or arts, they might be upskilling and learning new things or have some other achievements not related to their work. Why not take a moment at your Christmas event to show them you care and recognize them in front of their colleagues?
5. Highlight the impact of your business on the community
Calculate and estimate the impact your company has made in your community. Show your employees the importance of their work by presenting specific examples, reading out letters from clients, customers or people you helped.
Final Piece of Advice
Words can matter just as much as gestures, so don’t forget to simply say “thank you”.
If you’re currently working on your hiring plans for next year and would like to know more about proactive recruitment solutions and strategies, please get in touch with me directly to arrange an informal conversation.