How to handle the Christmas party conundrum

  • 10 Dec 2021

By Alisa Mistry, HR Advice Manager, Charlie HR

Despite Sajid Javid’s reassurance, the threat of the new Omicron strain has thrown many small businesses into confusion over whether or not they should cancel their office Christmas party.

Of the businesses we support, the vast majority have decided to continue with their Christmas party plans this year. They are, however, asking us for guidance on how they can keep everyone safe.

There are steps organisations can take to help ringfence the risk and ensure members of staff feel comfortable.

 

Make it optional

The office Christmas party is a chance to reward and thank staff for their work. It needs to be a treat and the reality is that those staff with underlying health conditions or who feel considerable anxiety about the current situation will not see it in that way if they are forced to attend.

Make sure there is a fuss-free way out for team members who need one and make sure you open up dialogue with all members of staff so their feelings are heard.

Reduce the venue risk

Even if you can’t change the venue, there are things that can be done to reduce the risks. Speak to your venue to make sure it will be well ventilated and sanitising stations will be set up at entrances and exits. Those working in the venue should wear face masks throughout the duration and keep a safe distance. Reduce the circulation of people by choosing a sit-down meal over canapes or a buffet.

If there are options to tweak the venue set-up, you could ask to spread the party over a number of rooms so people are circulating in a larger space. If this isn’t an option, consider breaking down the party into smaller events so the number of people mixing together at any one time is reduced. You could also ask staff to show evidence of a negative lateral flow or PCR test 24 hours before the party.

Develop a sickness policy

Due to the current spread, and the range of attitudes that will be present in your team, it is essential to have a pre-party policy on sickness. Before Covid, it may have been socially excusable to be partying despite having a runny nose but things have changed considerably.

 

Make clear what your policy on general sickness is in advance of the party. It is a good idea to ask staff to speak to their line manager if they are experiencing any symptoms of illness before the event to get a view on whether it would be appropriate or not to attend. Being obviously unwell at this year’s Christmas party will not only be extremely anti-social, it could also contribute to the spread of Covid.

Why you shouldn’t cancel

If you are wondering whether it is worth the effort or the risk, here is a reminder why this year’s Christmas party is worth keeping:

• The annual Christmas party is a fantastic chance to reward your team and allow them to enjoy themselves together in a social setting. It is excellent for team morale – especially when it comes to building existing and new relationships and for team bonding

• For the majority of teams who have been spending large chunks of time working remotely, getting together in this way allows them to mix with colleagues they perhaps haven’t seen for months, or at least not in person

• Remote working has meant it has been incredibly hard for businesses to maintain their unique work culture (although for many without the crutch of a physical office it has been an opportunity to regroup). Coming together is a way to remind everyone of what the company is about and what it stands for

 

• You can even mix in some business with pleasure, especially if this is the first chance to come together in-person for a while. In the afternoon you could remind staff of what they have achieved over the past year and the ambitions for the next. Just make sure you keep the business update and socialising separate – there should be a very clear line so employees know they can properly kick back and relax

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