The same 10 festive hits on repeat. A punch bowl containing a questionably coloured liquid. Misshapen party hats. Tinsel draped across the photocopier.
It can only mean one thing: the annual Christmas party.
Sure, it’s no night at the Ritz. But for many of us, an end-of-year bash symbolises more than a few lukewarm drinks and badly managed parlour games. It’s a chance to connect with coworkers on a personal, lighthearted level, strengthen our relationships ahead of the new year, and do something fun together that isn’t work.
Opportunities to connect in person have been few and far between since covid. And while the humble Christmas party might seem low on the organisational agenda, boosting morale and focusing on the emotional aspects of our working lives can never be a bad thing.
So it goes without saying: the Christmas party needs to be more than good this year – it needs to be spectacular. People need space to celebrate, commemorate, reflect on everything they’ve overcome in the past year and open terrible secret Santa gifts.
It’s a tall order, but we can help you get there. Grab your party planner, and let’s make it a night to remember!
The business-leisure cocktail
A fantastic Christmas party is all about blending dynamics. Too stuffy and organised, and you’ll suck all of the fun out of things. No boundaries or structure and your attendees could be left dozing off by the buffet – or cranking up the antics just for fun.
Tales of Christmas parties gone wrong are more than fiction – some have even ended in court. But a little time and consideration go a long way when you’re planning the main event.
When wine glasses replace coffee cups, and shirts are swapped for sequined dresses, it’s easy to forget behavioural expectations. But the policies that protect your people should still be upheld outside of the office when it’s a work-related event. And because these policies aren’t something your people will be checking in with regularly, it’s important to bring their attention to them ahead of the date.
An easy way to remind your team of these policies is to make them part of the event invite, and circulate invites early on. Add a few statements from your behaviour policy to your event invite, include tick boxes, and ask attendees to sign in agreement.
Remember to keep things short and simple – the last thing your people are going to do when they receive their invite is hunting down your behavioural policy and check they’re kosher. They have an outfit to plan!
If you want to go the extra mile, kick off your Christmas party with a short welcome speech. Make a point of asking attendees to be respectful, kind, and thoughtful about how they behave around each other. Remind them that Santa checks his list twice, and it’s not too late to end up on the naughty one.
Plan it like any other event
You wouldn’t host a company offsite, strategy day, or conference without planning it properly. While you might not have KPIs to meet or presentations to deliver, your Christmas party still requires some structure and organisation to keep everybody safe and happy.
One of the first things you’ll want to decide is where you host the function. There’s nothing wrong with converting your business space into a makeshift party venue, but there are some drawbacks as far as health and safety are concerned.
By hosting your event at an external venue, you can pick somewhere that’s designed specifically for your function. You’ll still need to complete a company risk assessment, but you’ll also be safe in the knowledge that the venue owners and staff members are equipped to handle social functions like yours.
Consider how you can make sure the venue is accessible to everyone who wants to attend. For those that live further away, can you provide transport to and from the location? Are people with disabilities able to move safely and comfortably around the venue? Is the venue welcoming and safe for people from minority backgrounds and marginalised groups?
A Christmas party should bring all attendees together, but you risk doing the opposite if you’re unable to create an inclusive and psychologically safe environment. Where possible, run venue options past your people before making the final decision.
If you’re on a tight budget and need to use company space, just make sure you risk assess it in the context of a party. Your standard risk assessment might suffice if people are typing up the end-of-year reports or calling clients, but what about when the desks are covered in cups and snacks?
Don’t trap yourself in tradition
There are very distinctive images that come to mind when you picture a Christmas party. Those images aren’t everyone’s idea of a good time. If you want to give your team a great night, they should be able to choose how they participate in the festivities.
When it comes to food and drink, make sure you have options that fit a range of different lifestyles. There’s nothing worse than turning up with an empty stomach, only to realise you can’t dine at the table.
Organise games and activities to build momentum, but don’t force people to join in. Consider how you can structure the physical space so that people can connect one on one, in a larger group, or take time for themselves. If drinks are flowing and spirits are high, having some preplanned activities can help you channel that energy positively and avoid outlandish behaviour.
While covid restrictions are no longer in place, be conscious that some of your people could still be anxious about getting sick. Set up sanitising stations so that your team has the facilities to make themselves feel safe. If possible, book a deep cleaning of the venue before the big night. Your people will appreciate the extra effort to keep them safe.
What happens at the Christmas party doesn’t stay at the Christmas party. You’ll be reminded of it when you rock up to the office in 2023. Make sure they’re memories you want to remember, and not forget!
Adam Coleman, CEO of HR software solutions provider HRLocker
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