A joyless press release landed in my inbox last week. According to offices.co.uk, a provider of serviced offices and flexible workplaces, 61% of managers and directors are planning to spend less this year on their office Christmas parties.
Twelve per cent said they were cancelling their Christmas party altogether, according to the company’s survey of mostly London businesses. Bah humbug, we hear you cry.
So, what is going on here?
Are Scrooge-y companies trying to scrimp at every opportunity to protect the bottom line or is the annual knees-up falling victim, in part, to an era in which any sign of corporate excess is frowned upon?
After all, HR directors across the UK may still remember one small recruitment company’s nightmare before Christmas: in 2011, at the unofficial after-party for Northampton Recruitment’s Christmas party, the managing director punched an employee twice during a work-related argument.
Worst-case scenarios aside, surely neither cost-cutting nor fear of employment tribunals is a reason to cancel Christmas.
First of all, the office Christmas party is one way a company can thank its employees for the long hours and hard work put in throughout the year.
It is also an opportunity for employees on the third floor to mingle with those on the seventh, who they may not have met otherwise. Even better, it is one of the few times of the year when employees can have drinks (alcoholic or not) with their boss and have (relatively) unconstrained interactions.
And, lastly, for one night only, workers can throw off their inhibitions, eat, drink and be merry together. The majority of adults know how to behave and they should be allowed a few hours once a year to celebrate their professional milestones.
If companies are really that worried about the threat of an employment tribunal, lawyers recommend a tactful and sensitively worded office statement, making sure everyone knows what is and is not acceptable.
Accounting firm BDO has this year introduced a “sober chaperone” policy, according to theFinancial Times. Two people will stay sober for Christmas parties and be responsible in an emergency situation, as well as make sure their colleagues get home safe.
Too far? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
The bottom line is: cancelling parties completely is not the way to go.
People are often overworked and wages are not growing as fast as inflation. And surely it is cheaper to throw a party than count the cost of low morale.
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