Alexis Thompson on why the one in four businesses not having a Christmas party this year might be missing out on a great opportunity
There’s no denying that the office Christmas party, although fun, can also be a minefield. Whilst most employers want to celebrate, kick-back and reward their staff after a busy year, they don’t particularly want to have to deal with drunken antics, unprofessional behaviour and hung-over staff the next day.
So it’s no wonder that a quarter of organisations have decided not to have a party this year – this is according to a survey released by the Institute of Leadership & Management (ILM) this week. That’s in spite of over half of those surveyed looking forward to a good old festive knees-up, and a chance to let their hair down.
John Lees, a career strategists and author of How To Get A Job You Love, says: “If there’s a good reason to hold an office party, it’s because it reminds people that they have more in common than work. Engaging with people in a social setting reminds us that one of the most important things we get out of work is the best chance to learn from, and enjoy other people. Letting your hair down is about more than decompressing after a busy year – it celebrates human connection.”
The research also discovered that companies are being less of a Santa and more of a Scrooge this Christmas, with more than half (53 per cent) of those having a party this year expected to pay for or pay something towards it.
Rune Sovndahl, CEO and co-founder of Fantastic Services, says: “The office Christmas party is always a night to remember…sometimes for the right reasons and sometimes for the wrong ones. Whilst we’ve all heard the horror stories, a well-planned party can be the perfect way to end the year and celebrate the successes of your business, with the people who helped make it happen. However as a business owner myself I know the Christmas party can also be a big expense. With January always being a time that brings about change, many companies will be mindful that they don’t want to go too big on budget due to the inventible spending freeze that takes place at the turn of the year. However, without blowing your budget, there are a few simple things you can do to plan the perfect office party.
“Alcohol is an unavoidable spend at any corporate function but try to avoid having spirits behind the bar and offer wine or beer instead. You’ll save on cost and the night is less likely to become a messy one for your members of staff.
“Another way to save on cost is to hold your Christmas party at another time in the year. Everyone knows demand for venues is high in December, so why not book your Christmas bash in February or March? Your team will still enjoy a great night out, bonding and socialising but you don’t have to incur the inflated December prices. You might also want to think about using your own office space as a venue. That might ring alarm bells in terms of causing a mess but you could save thousands on venue hire alone and with the money you save, you can recruit a professional cleaning services company to tidy up the aftermath.”
So could it be that companies are losing tolerance towards their staff’s wild drunken antics and the subsequent implications in the office the next day with nearly a third (30 per cent) of those surveyed admitting to going into work the day after the party with a hangover and 14 per cent of managers saying that they have had to reprimand staff for their behaviour at a party. The majority of those surveyed (77 per cent) say they had seen their colleagues drink too much at their office party, while 50 per cent had heard too much personal information being shared.
But is this a reason to cancel one of the most anticipated events of the year? Journalist Rhian Morgan says it’s a bad move for a company to cancel the one event that could serve as a thank you to all of their hard-working staff, plus “office parties can be amazing,” she says.
“Colleagues can often be friends for life. They share the same passion for their profession, as well as the same interests. Sharing office gossip often leads to bonding in the bar after work, and the office party can be a fun extension of this. However, sometimes alcohol can loosen the inhibitions too much – and colleagues can take their bonding too far. From drunken pranks, to heated arguments, passions can be inflamed by all the booze, especially when it comes to exercising caution in battles between the head and the heart.”
She adds: “To have a great office party, the perfect cocktail is plenty of food to soak up the alcohol, and lots of entertainment on offer, so that your dance moves and witty conversation are the focus of attention – rather than your dodgy chat-up lines.”
According to the ILM survey, 26 per cent felt that their company party had positively impacted their career, and 66 per cent of workers say one of the key benefits of a Christmas party is to improve colleague relationships, and the same number like the opportunity to get to know each other.
Perhaps it’s just a case of finding the right balancing act between having a good time and not letting the promise of free booze sway employees to the dark side – too much.