Christmas for most people is a time of cheer but in the workplace it can become the biggest fear your HR department will face in the year; the main culprit – the Office Christmas Party…
The main benefits of the Christmas party are twofold. It allows employers to show their staff how much they’re appreciated whilst at the same time it is great way for staff and employers to socialise outside of the office as it encourages engagement, however how much engagement and encouragement is where the headaches begin.
Work Christmas party tales have become something of urban legend with the most notorious stories being told far and wide and as these stories are being regaled your HR Manager is probably cowering in a corner with their hands over their ears wishing for it to be January already!
No one likes to be referred to as ‘The Fun Police’ but during the festive period this is what your HR department will become and it is for the good of the cause. Your work’s Christmas party is exactly what it says on the tin – WORK – and so to ensure all those attending understand that fact here’s a few tips you should bear in mind in advance of the party;
- Do make sure your insurance is up to date – it is well known that employers can be held vicariously liable for the actions of their employees at office parties as they are deemed by courts/ tribunals to be an extension of the workplace. Make sure your employers liability insurance (to cover your staff’s welfare) and your directors’ and officers’ insurance (to cover your managers’ liability) are up to date.
- Do send a reminder about appropriate and inappropriate behaviour – make sure all of those attending are aware of the fact that ALL HR policies concerning acceptable behaviour (including social media and drugs and alcohol use) will be in effect on the night of the office party, and any inappropriate or discriminatory behaviour will be dealt with accordingly.
- Do make sure staff can get home safely – if you intend on providing your staff with free alcohol, or if your venue is a little off the beaten track, make sure you provide information about how to get home safely including taxi numbers, and details of public transport, and encourage all staff not to drink and drive.
- Do make it a celebration for all – the Christmas party is a great opportunity to thank your staff, so if you have staff who are under 18, or who do not celebrate Christmas, make sure you pick a venue which is suitable for all and can cater for all social and religious requirements of attendees.
- Do think about the date of the party – it may be wise to try and book your party on a Friday to discourage absenteeism the next day. If this isn’t possible perhaps look at ways to be lenient on your staff the next day, and tempt them into work with hangover cures such as free bacon butties & Lucozade!
- Fun Police – designate a few managers to keep ‘an eye out’ for problem situations and intervene if an employee starts behaving inappropriately.
- Don’t make the office party compulsory – give your staff the opportunity to decide whether they would like to attend or not. Forced fun is no fun, and often people who feel forced into being somewhere will probably behave unceremoniously and bring the atmosphere down.
- Don’t encourage binge drinking – as the party atmosphere starts to build the idea of buying shots for your team might seem like a good idea but remember this is only more likely to cause unwanted incidents!
- Don’t talk performance, promotion or pay – whilst the party is an opportunity for all to wind down, it is best to avoid certain topics and discuss such matters in a more professional context when alcohol is not involved!
- Don’t put up mistletoe – try to avoid this wherever possible, as it will only encourage incidents and potential sexual harassment claims