The office Christmas party has long been a feature of modern work, but is it time to put it to pasture? Here are four reasons why the answer might be yes.
The Christmas party was once known as a time to celebrate the end of the year and reward staff for all their hard work and success. But the times, they are a changin’. Should you just call the whole thing off? Here are four things to consider:
1. Employees are over it
Are there other ways to mark the occasion besides dodgy canapés and copious amounts of booze? Lots of employees think so.
A recent US study conducted by Randstad found that over two thirds (75 per cent) of respondents consider philanthropy and charity to be the top priority. Many just want a bit of cheer in the office and for their colleagues to be a bit more amicable (54 per cent and 41 per cent respectively).
Perhaps we should cut the indulgence and do something different. HRM previously discussed how workplace giving can increase engagement while doing something positive for the community.
Beyond the boardroom is a program designed by beyondBlue as a team building activity. Some of the options include helping the homeless sell the Big Issue for a half day or building bikes and cubby houses that are donated to a charity. A good way to embody the Christmas spirit and strengthen engagement.
2. It’s expensive
Christmas parties can be costly, and is it really money well-spent? Almost all (90 percent) of the employees surveyed in the Randstad research would prefer that the money used to fund the annual Christmas do was funneled into a bonus payment or extra time off. Eventbrite’s Aussie Workplace Christmas Party Index found the average local business will spend around $10,000 on their 2017 Christmas parties, and one in six plan to spend between $10,000 to $100,000.
That’s a lot of money. Why not have a potluck lunch instead, as suggested by The Balance. Asking each employee to bring a dish, particularly a traditional dish from their country’s cuisine, is a great way to both save money and demonstrate inclusiveness.
The Weinstein effect, or the Burke effect if you prefer, has put a damper on the festive mood. It no longer seems like a good idea to put the moves on Jenny from accounting after a little liquid courage (not that it ever was).
Suddenly, and unfortunately, Mike Pence is looking like a role model for many a confused man. According to the New York Times, some are beginning to think that avoiding private interactions with women is the answer. While that’s obviously the wrong attitude, could the office Christmas party turn into school dances, with men on one side of the room and women on the other?
Employers are likely to also be on high alert, especially when alcohol is in the mix. As previously reported in HRM, employer “policies, practices and procedures” will be under the microscope if action is taken against an employee for bad behaviour while under the influence.
Some ways to protect yourself prior to the event include:
- Remind staff about the standards of behaviour expected at a company event.
- Training marshalls to be on the lookout for any inappropriate behaviour, and how to diffuse the situation.
- Reviewing company policies that relate to sexual harassment, alcohol and drugs to ensure nothing comes back to bite you should disciplinary action be required.
4. HR has better things to do
It may still be a given in many organisations, and quite a few might enjoy the responsibility, but HR really has better things to do with its time.
As a reader recently commented on an HRM opinion piece about how HR is not for “nice” people:
“Within this [the idea of not always being nice] lies the responsibility to say “no”, to push accountability back to where it belongs and for HR to stand firm in the work that matters. Anyone can organise a Christmas party or year-end celebration – it doesn’t need to be HR.”
Couldn’t disagree more with this article? Read our rejoinder, about reasons why you should absolutely have a Christmas party.