Work Christmas parties: the highs and lows

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Austerity took the fizz out of the work Christmas party. As redundancies and frozen wages started to hit seven or so years ago, bosses cancelled their usual festive blowouts and blamed it on the financial climate.

But now the economy’s slowly on the rise those celebrations are creeping back in again. And over the next few weeks, bars, restaurants and event spaces up and down the land will be packed with colleagues spreading seasonal cheer.

From a chance to chat with Colin from Accounts, to the dangers of tagging a tired and emotional colleague on Facebook, let’s look at the gleeful highs and slightly more precarious lows around the annual workplace knees up.

The highs: Team building

There’s no better time of the year for bonding. The Christmas party is a great way to strengthen relationships and develop new ones, particularly if day to day interactions are limited to the people in one department. Chatting to others on all rungs of the management ladder can also help others take a fresh view on aspects of the workplace and ultimately boost a company’s effectiveness.

It’s no surprise that Virgin founder Richard Branson enthuses the benefits of a workplace mingle: “I have always believed that the benefits of letting your staff have the occasional blast at an after-hours get-together is a hugely important ingredient in the mix that makes for a family atmosphere and a fun-loving, free-spirited corporate culture,” he says. “It also goes a long way to tearing down any semblance of hierarchy when you’ve seen the CFO doing the limbo with a bottle of beer in her hand.”

The highs: Show off your company

Just like failing to organise - or cancelling - an office party sends the message that you don’t value your employees, throwing a fantastic do can do wonders for team morale. It’s a sure-fire way of showing your appreciation for the hard work done throughout the year.

Plus, having staff who feel well treated and happy means they’re more likely to share positive things about your business (particularly on social media).

Given the skills shortages faced by many sectors and the fact we're now in a candidate-driven market, this kind of word-of-mouth message can be a definite asset when it comes to recruiting.

The lows: More scope for embarrassment and fallout

The most mortifying Christmas party images used to come out out of the office photocopier. But enthusiastic party-goers are now more likely to take embarrasing snaps on their smartphones and tag colleagues on Facebook and Instagram.

In all the jollity and fizz-based excitement, some people can forget that employment laws still apply even if a party’s held outside the workplace.

That’s why long before the first canapé’s been trayed up, it’s a good idea to avoid misunderstanding and gently remind employees they’re expected to adhere to certain standards.

That could involve spelling out what’s acceptable and unacceptable in terms of:

  •       Behaviour towards and interaction with others
  •       Use of social media during and after the event
  •       Absenteeism the next day

The lows: The morning after the night before

If you provide a free bar all night, can you really complain if some staff overindulge and struggle to make it in the next day?

Again, it comes back to setting out clear expectations beforehand. Many employers might cut some slack the next day, and allow everyone to arrive slightly late if they need to. But how about a team member who takes an unannounced duvet day to recover?

As with everything around an annual work knees up, be clear about how much festive fun is OK - and frankly what’s taking the Christmas spirit a little too far.

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