Work Christmas parties are an ideal opportunity for colleagues to get together in a relaxed setting, however there are risks to consider for both employers and employees. Hybrid working and the ongoing rise in social media usage mean that people are not engaging in person on a daily basis like they once were, which can change the dynamic of your Christmas party.
To make it a successful event, it’s important for employers to know their responsibilities and plan early and carefully.
Planning and communication
Create a plan for the event and how you would like it to be, including setting expectations around alcohol. Conversations with staff before the event and management vigilance on the night will not only avoid conflict but enhance engagement with staff, ensuring that everyone is able to enjoy a great event. Talk to anyone who can’t make the event to ensure there are no hidden issues or anxieties that they may need support with, or reservations about attending the planned event.
Rights and responsibilities
Employers are likely to be responsible and liable for the event as they have a duty of care to their staff. This means that you need to consider details such as the time and location of the event, how easy it is for staff to get there and home. Is it accessible for any disabled team members? Is it suitable for all groups and beliefs?
Although you don’t want your Christmas party to feel like a normal working day, in some respects the boundaries must be the same, but there is a balance to achieve in terms of setting the scene for a great event.
Team needs and expectations
Your team is a group of individuals with different needs that need to be considered. Be mindful of multi-generational differences in the workplace and varied expectations of interactions at your Christmas party in terms of behaviour and language use. Sound policies in place and evidence of up-to-date diversity and equal opportunities training is vital.
Discussion with team members will highlight needs and enable you to tailor a Christmas event. You may need to provide facilities for those with specific disabilities, suggest a daytime event to allay anxieties or select a certain venue due to travel needs, for example. Staff surveys can help you identify what the majority would like to do when different personality types may prefer different activities.
Policies, procedures and staff training
While many employers have effective policies in place, it is often the case that staff are not trained, which exposes an employer to liability for their employees acts or omissions. Without both policies and staff training in place, the employer will not be able to defend their push to avoid that liability.
Training managers to deal with this shift in workplace culture and communication is critical. It’s also important to keep this shift in mind when planning and hosting work events.
Some employees may have a feeling of anxiety post-COVID about meeting in person and possibly being exposed to illness at a Christmas event. Ensure that managers do regular check-ins with team members to monitor and alleviate anxiety as far as possible. Encouraging team members to work in person at the workplace more regularly before the event may help with this.
With a great workplace strategy, clear understanding of employer obligations, sound policies in place, good planning and communication with staff, employers can host a great Christmas party, appreciate staff and reap the benefits in terms of motivation and productivity in the year to come.