Office Christmas parties are nothing if not a contentious subject. For some, they can be the highlight of the work year, but accommodating an entire team is difficult and frustrating.
As an employer, it can be even more difficult. You want to plan something that will reward your workers and remind employees how much they are valued. But you also have a duty of care to protect your team at any work function, even one sprinkled with festive spirit.
No employer wants to ruin a staff party with heavy-handed rules or restrictions. So if you’re an employer who wants to give your staff a festive and fun time this year, here are our tips for providing a Christmas party that is safe as well as enjoyable.
It might be that your employees are still a little reluctant to turn out for a full festive evening in one large venue.
This year, that is utterly understandable. People who have been coaxed back to the workplace under strict, Covid-secure conditions may still be reluctant to let their hair down on a crowded dance floor while alcohol is flowing and social distancing is shrinking.
But Christmas is a key time for organic team building. It’s important not to miss out on the benefits it can bring your team, from strengthening relationships to supporting mental health. The festive season is an opportunity for everyone to enjoy. It is important to provide an event that will appeal to the majority of your team.
We appreciate at this point that meeting online has definitely lost its shine. Zoom fatigue has definitely taken the fun out of virtual gatherings, and the thought of another couple of hours staring at colleagues on a screen doesn’t necessarily hold any appeal.
Instead of expecting people to turn up to talk for hours, or struggle through another online quiz, put on something a little more interactive that will bring people together in a slightly more fun way.
Online secret Santas, virtual scavenger hunts are all options. If you’re struggling to come up with something unusual yourself, there are plenty of companies out there who can arrange an online activity for you.
After nearly two full years of social distancing, you may find your employees are keen to get together and throw themselves into a Christmas work event.
This is a great way to boost employee morale. It is your opportunity to reward them after a long year, and remind your team how much you value them.
Even on a good year, arranging a safe festive party can be complicated. But is always possible. Here are some of our tips to help you plan an office Christmas party that will keep your staff happy AND safe.
Even if your party is held out of work hours, you still hold a duty of care to your employees at an official work Christmas party.
This means you must conduct a comprehensive health and safety risk assessment prior to the event. Particularly if you are holding your party in your own venue, such as an office, it is imperative that you identify any and all potential risks.
If you don’t feel qualified to conduct this kind of safety assessment yourself, you can always engage an outside company to run it for you. Here at DBOCC, we are able to offer on-site risk assessments and provide safety advice.
In many cases, your duty of care to your employees won’t end when they step out into the icy December air. Morally, and often legally, you need to play your part in getting them home safely as well.
Depending on the location of your venue, expecting people to rely on public transport might compromise their safety. Particularly if it is late at night. Where possible put on your own transport, at the very least to bring people back to populated areas if relevant.
It is important that every employee feels comfortable and able to enjoy themselves. For some, this will be mean having a drink (or two!)
Trying to limit alcohol consumption completely may not go down well. A better way to minimise the risks is by encouraging sensible drinking by providing food and non-alcoholic options too.
Any workplace party should provide plenty of interesting non-alcoholic beverages. Mocktails, soft drinks and alcohol-free beer will give people tasty alternatives to tempt them away from too many tipples.
This is also an important option from a discrimination point, as obviously many people don’t drink alcohol for cultural or personal reasons. A wide choice of non-alcoholic drinks will make sure everybody feels included.
Where alcohol is provided, you should also provide food. Don’t cut costs with pathetic portions either. Help your employees line their stomachs and stay in control.
While it may feel like the pandemic has been rolling on for years this will actually be the first season of festive parties since the virus started circulating. The last-minute lockdown of 2020 and a general lack of reasons to celebrate left most people
While we all might feel like the details of Covid compliance are burned into our psyche’s by now, it is important to provide a responsible service protecting your staff. As an employer, you can always seek support from an external company such DBOCC to help reduce COVID risks but as a minimum, you could do the following:
For many, this will have become second nature. But you should still remind employees to take a lateral flow test to check their Covid status before attending a workplace event.
There is still a lot of concern around the transmission of COVID via surface contamination and the thought of catching a pandemic-driven virus is enough to put anyone off their food.
Not to belittle the festive fuddle tradition, but 2021 is definitely the year to invest in a catering company for your work Christmas parties. It is unreasonable to expect your employees to ensure all the necessary safety steps are observed when cooking but by now most caterers will be highly experienced in Covid compliance around the cooking and serving of food.
This might not apply to every business owner, but if you have a large staff body one of the simplest and most reasonable steps you can take to reduce risk is not to expect all your staff to share one venue for a party.
Where possible (and practical) encourage a number of smaller parties or events, rather than one big one. Do not force divisions between your teams, but also be aware if there are natural ways to shrink the number of people in one place, this is the year to do it.
Unfortunately, many managers frequently start their new year dealing with complaints of inappropriate behaviour from the Christmas party.
Rather than waiting till an incident occurs to deal out disciplinary action, take some time to remind staff of workplace policies around sexual harassment, drug and alcohol consumption as well as discrimination and bullying.
Run refresher training for all staff or post out notices and make it clear that just because a work event isn’t held in the workplace itself, doesn’t mean standards of conduct can slip.
Set out clear boundaries prior to the event, establish a serious stance on unacceptable behaviour and explain possible consequences. It may feel heavy-handed, but when drink is likely to be involved, it is important not to allow any ambiguity.
Many employers won’t consider Christmas an important time in the company calendar but it is the perfect opportunity to reward your team and remind them how much you value them. A Christmas party is the perfect way to do this, but setting up one that is as safe as it is fun can be a daunting prospect.
If you want help creating an enjoyable festive experience for your team, we can help you do a complete risk assessment to make sure your party goes off without a hitch.
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