Love them or hate them, but, come December, the work Christmas party is as difficult to avoid as Cliff Richard’s Mistletoe and Wine!
Colleagues whose usual interactions are little more than an email or asking if they like sugar in their tea, are suddenly thrown into a social situation, usually involving copious amounts of alcohol. No wonder that previously unmentioned tensions, that have been bubbling away for the past year, suddenly rise to the surface, leading to more severe consequences than a hangover on your return to work!
As an employer, the temptation to duck the ‘do’ is even more appealing. Not only do you have to watch your own behaviour but somehow keep an eye on everyone else!
Remember that, just because you’re not in the office, doesn’t mean you’re not responsible if things get out of hand. As an employer, you have a duty of care towards your staff, even if you’re off the office premises. And no-one want a potential employment tribunal claim come January.
Here’s our guide to help the works Christmas party go with a swing.
• It’s difficult, but try to choose a venue or theme that will appeal to all ages and tastes, and will encourage younger and more mature employees, male and female to mingle and enjoy themselves in a comfortable and suitable atmosphere.
• If possible, opt for a licensed venue away from the office. Not only does that avoid the unsavoury use of the photocopier, but legally it helps avoid licensing or insurance issues!
• Wherever the party, ensure there are plenty of soft drinks on offer. Not everyone wants to indulge in a drunken evening, some employees will certainly be driving and the option of a soft drink might discourage excessive drinking – which can lead to all sorts of other problems.
• If you’re supplying food, try to cater for all – ensuring there are vegan, gluten-free or halal options depending on employees dietary requirements. To make things simpler, it might be worth asking about any specific requirements beforehand.
• Consider laying on transport to avoid issues of drinking and driving. If you’re encouraging everyone to let their hair down then it’s important that everyone gets home safely. If a mini bus isn’t practical then make sure everyone knows taxi numbers or has a lift home.
• Keep an eye on any potential problems. Avoid sitting two argumentative colleagues who don’t get along next to each other. If there are more serious issues of potential harassment or bullying then a gentle reminder to staff beforehand might serve as a subtle reminder that ‘banter’ is often inappropriate, even after a couple of beers.
• It is also worth reminding staff about any work policies regarding social media. Reiterate to everyone what is suitable to share on the internet and who is uncomfortable about appearing on the Facebook page of Barry from Accounts!
• In an ideal world, it should go without saying, but bear in mind the potential for claims of sexual harassment. A few drinks are clearly not an excuse to touch anyone in a way that can be misinterpreted, or say things that are considered demeaning or sexually provocative. Use your common sense and step in if you suspect any unseemly behaviour.
• If employees have to be at work the following day then be clear that action will be taken if they don’t turn up on time the next morning. Better still, if possible, choose a day, where people are off work the following morning.
Having said all this, please don’t be a party pooper and cancel the office do. Yes, there can be party pitfalls, but it’s a great way to get know each other in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
It’s a time for everyone to bond and feel valued by their employer, which is a great present to give your hardworking staff at Christmas.