The Christmas Party Survival Guide

By Alan Gregory | 3rd December 2018 | 17 min read

With Christmas rapidly approaching, the entirety of December can feel like one never ending shopping expedition – once you’ve got presents for the family, the in-laws and the dog, you’re then faced with the task of wrestling an outdoor tree into your indoor living room, and trying to ensure the turkey remains edible.

To round it all off, there’s still a number of weeks at work left, all whilst the weather gets rapidly chillier – and many HR and Office Managers will begin turning their attention to the most important event in the professional festive calendar: the office Christmas party.

The office Christmas party should provide staff with the chance to let their hair down and build strong working relationships with colleagues. Most companies want to use this as an opportunity to reward staff for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. However, the combination of Christmas-induced giddiness and unlimited alcohol can sometimes become a bit of a nightmare for HR and Office managers who are tasked with navigating the minefield that is work Christmas parties.

No-one wants to be ‘that person’, but if you’re an employer or member of your workplace’s HR department, being prepared for the festive season makes the New Year much easier. Which is why we’ve put together this Survival Guide.

Survival Skill 1: Behavioural Expectations

For some managers, the concept of reiterating company codes of conduct regarding social events has them quietly backing out of the meeting room, but you shouldn’t be afraid of setting out clear guidelines as to what behaviour is acceptable at the event. It’s also important to make sure employees understand that the company will be held responsible for any disruptive, or even destructive, actions. Making sure this has been conveyed to them prior can help to set the level of expectation from the beginning.

It should be made clear to employees that breaches of your usual standards of conduct could result in formal disciplinary proceedings, or further action being taken depending on the nature of their behaviour.

Survival Skill 2: Address the Alcohol

We don’t mean sit down and have an in-depth chat with a crate of prosecco, but understandably, most firms want to reward their employees for their hard work through the medium of either a free or very generous bar allowance. However, as free alcohol is frequently named as a pivotal factor in tribunals that are brought against companies by their employees, it’s advisable to approach this cautiously.

If you’re wanting to provide a free bar, ensure that you also provide soft drinks that every employee can access and attempt to roughly gauge the level of alcohol consumption as the night goes on. A good idea for keeping levels of alcohol consumption under control is to issue free drinks tokens, with a certain number allocated to each attendee.

Survival Skill 3: Censor Social Media

Social media is a daily aspect of everyone’s lives, whether it’s for business or personal purposes. This means that inappropriate use can become business issue at any time, but work related social events can require stricter guidance.

Managing this successfully comes down to issuing clear guidelines to all staff. If you’d prefer they didn’t upload any photos or videos from the event, you must explain why this is and the potential impact that any offensive content could have on the business.

An alternative option to consider is asking your employees to use a specific hashtag when uploading pictures or videos, that way you can censor what’s being shared – and if it’s inappropriate, you can politely ask that they take it down. The Christmas party season can be a really good time to remind people of your organisation’s social media policy, or to consider creating one if it’s not something you already have in place.

Survival Skill 4: Entertainment for Everyone

If you’ve decided to hold your event externally, or you’ve bought tickets for a Christmas party alongside other companies, it’s important to consider the kind of entertainment that will be provided on the night. Is the evening going to be suitable for all staff? Is there something included that everyone will be able to enjoy to some extent?

For example, if you’re running a casino themed evening – it’s likely to rely heavily on gambling as the core form of entertainment – which is brilliant if your employees are up for playing blackjack, however it could be isolating for anyone whose religion bans the practice, or even for those who may have people close to them negatively affected by gambling.

It’s paramount to consider your workforce carefully when looking at entertainment options for your Christmas party.

Survival Skill 5: Managing Inevitable Absences

It’s the topic that comes up every single year, but absences do spike during the Christmas period for a majority of businesses. In an attempt to avoid unnecessary absences, some companies opt to hold their Christmas party on a Friday – which is often at an extra cost to the business. However, this pays for itself as it gives employees two days to recover before they’re required back in the office.

If your party does fall on a weekday, you need to ensure all staff are aware of what is expected from them the next day – could you implement a late start or an early finish? Would it be possible to stagger working hours across teams, or even a half day?

If you outline exactly what you expect from your employees the next working day, you’re much more likely to avoid late night and alcohol induced absences.

6 Top Tips for Managers to Guarantee a Successful Christmas Party

  • Provide clear guidance on the standard of behaviour that’s expected – ensure all staff understand that although it’s a party, it’s still a professional event.
  • Remind people to make sure they have arrangements for travelling home: you could pre-book taxis from the venue for staff who are attending.
  • Ensure that you provide a range of refreshments, including soft drinks, to cater for everyone.
  • Reiterate social media guidelines, what can and what can’t be posted?
  • When planning entertainment, consider inclusivity and discrimination.
  • Make sure that staff understand that it’s not compulsory, respect that people might have religious beliefs or already have plans which mean they can’t attend.

If you’re looking to improve your HR processes or want to ensure you’re completely on the ball this festive season – see how IRIS HR can help with their HR software solutions.