It’s that time of year isn’t it? Everyone is talking about tinsel, presents, parties and celebrations. Which is great for those who love Christmas celebrations. Some people look forward to this time of year all year. There are those who don’t though. For some the ‘festive season’ might be at a completely different time of year. Some people celebrate other festivals, some people don’t celebrate at all. So if you’re an employer organising Christmas parties for all employees, are you throwing a party everyone can be part of? And are people given the choice not to attend at all?

Why throw celebrations?

Employers often throw celebrations to bring employees together to enhance teamwork. Getting to know each other in a more relaxed setting can help people bond over non-work conversations which then helps people work better together. Throwing celebrations can help people feel a sense of belonging and that their employer cares enough to put some budget to employee social events.

Celebrations are sometimes thrown to celebrate successes. That might be a contract win, a new client, a client renewal or hitting a target or goal. Bringing everyone together to talk about and celebrate these things can help people feel appreciated by an employer and motivated to do more.

Then there are those celebrations that might be seasonal, or to celebrate a particular festival or holiday.

The types of celebrations often put together are things like activities, or dinners, lunches or drinks. Sometimes these might be in the office, or they might be at a restaurant or pub. For activities, things like 10-pin bowling, go-karting or escape rooms are popular. Increasingly we see employers bringing people together for social causes. So it might be doing a beach clean together, or volunteering for a charity together to bring people together. And the activities don’t have to be things that require a lot of physical activity. Things like cooking, making cocktails, tea tasting…there are lots of options to consider.

Is everyone invited?

So what can go wrong? Well quite a lot as it happens. If you bring people together, provide free alcohol and a party atmosphere it can lead to things going wrong. Most people have a horror story about accidents, injuries, bullying or bad behaviour at an work social event.

These events can lead to exclusionary behaviour, harassment, people falling over or getting injured. Sometimes there are things that happen which lead to embarrassment in the workplace afterwards. They can lead to people feeling totally excluded from the so called ‘fun’ event too.

Consider perhaps someone who doesn’t drink alcohol, which can be for a variety of reasons. At a social event they might have to endure the endless ‘come on, relax and have a drink’ comments all evening. Times of day can exclude people, the type of activity or the food or drink provided.

For some people, it’s just that they don’t wish to socialise with people they work with at all. Some people prefer to keep their work and social life separate. And they might want to spend their precious free time with friends and family over work colleagues. And that’s totally fine too.

Celebrations advice

We held a webinar recently with EnlightenHR and here are some of the things we suggested:

  • Offer people choices and options, so perhaps some different events, budget to spend on a social event of choice and the option not to attend at all
  • Consider different interests, different accessibility requirements and different times of day
  • Either offer a company budget, or consider different budgets if there is a requirement to spend on the event or getting there and back
  • Offer different food and drink options and check for dietary requirements
  • Set clear expectations for the event
  • Align with your culture
  • Discuss with leaders so that everyone is aligned and accountable
  • Make sure people will be safe

And good ideas we have seen from different employers are things like ‘beliefs days’ to celebrate and learn about different beliefs, giving people a budget to choose their activities and offering a choice of events to go to.

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