Set guidelines for office Christmas party and festive period

13 December 2019 6 min. read

For a lot of people, Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. For employees, Christmas is, after a busy year, a chance to celebrate achievements and a festive period with others; but for employers, an office Christmas party could have a negative impact on its workers or company reputation. According to Sara Hope, Director at Clover HR, clear guidelines are important. 

A recent survey conducted by Peldon Rose found that 54 per cent of employees are stressed leading up to the holidays, with 49 per cent stating their stress was caused by the pressure of finishing work and projects. Another 44 per cent identified it as the increasing workload to complete. 

So how can employers help? Take the time to talk to your employees about how they are managing their workload. Encourage them to review what they need to do before the festive break and what can wait until afterwards. If they are still struggling, working together to find a solution can help reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety they might have felt dealing with the situation alone. 

After working hard throughout the year, it’s no wonder that many employees look forward to the annual Christmas party as a chance to have some fun and let their hair down a little. It also offers managers the opportunity to reward employees and recognise their contribution over the past 12 months, as well as giving everyone the chance to spend time together as a team, outside of an office environment in a more relaxed setting. 

Set guidelines for office Christmas party and festive period

However, the study by Peldon Rose found that only 30% of those surveyed stated that a Christmas party was the most desired holiday perk from their company. In fact, there have been reports of fewer organisations planning to host parties due to previous bad behaviours or as cost-cutting measures. But with careful planning, the Christmas party can be an enjoyable experience for all involved, having a positive impact on morale which in turn has a positive impact on an employee’s mental health.

Sometimes a party situation can be a source of anxiety for those who do not consume alcohol or have specific dietary requirements, so include these considerations in your planning – make sure you provide plenty of soft drinks alongside alcohol and plan menus well in advance, so everyone is catered for.

Clear guidelines

There is an expectation though that alcohol will be available, so employers should protect themselves by setting out clear guidelines ahead of the party in the form of either a policy or communication, as well as trying to minimise potential issues where possible – request that bar staff remain vigilant and refuse to serve anyone who appears intoxicated. A rogue photograph showing bad behaviour shared across social media could bring the company into disrepute and have a negative impact on the company’s reputation, so don’t be afraid to outline expectations and responsibilities prior to the party, within reason.

Consider your obligations and the needs of all your staff. If you know there are fractions within your team, attending an alcohol-fuelled party can be a source of huge anxiety for many people, which can have a detrimental impact on their mental health. Work then should be done on improving relationships from within the business as a whole, regardless of Christmas or the New Year.

There is a duty of care to those attending so make sure steps are in place to make sure everyone leaves the party safely; if the venue is not easily accessible, you may wish to think about organising transport. 

Employees themselves have an obligation to behave appropriately. If your party is taking place mid-week and staff are expected to be in work the next day, remind them that they should arrive for work on time and in a fit state to perform their work.

Christmas party can be enjoyable for all

Employees may be investigated and face disciplinary action if their employer suspects that they are under the influence of alcohol and drugs, which could have serious consequences for the person involved, such as dismissal without notice. Likewise, if your role involves driving then it is very important to think about how much alcohol you are consuming. Alcohol can stay in the blood stream and you could still be over the drink-drive limit in the morning. 

If caught, this could result in prosecution and being banned from driving, which in turn is likely to put your role in jeopardy. Losing their job, or the risk of, can be very stressful and have negative consequences on a person’s mental health so it’s important to take these considerations into account. 

Mental health

It’s also important to note that drugs and alcohol can have a detrimental impact on a person’s mental health wellbeing – especially if that person may be struggling already. An open door policy or taking the time to talk to employees can help in these situations.

While the Christmas party and subsequent holiday period is a joy for many, it can also be a lonely time for some people particularly if they have little or no family or have perhaps suffered a loss. Employees have a responsibility to ensure the safety their colleagues, so try to ensure everyone is included in Christmas events and activities. 

The dark nights and cold weather can also make people isolated. If you have an Employee Programme, it can be a good idea to remind staff of the contact details so they can access it should they wish to.

For many people, the festive period is highly anticipated throughout the year, but it’s important to note that this isn’t the case for everyone. But with planning and conversation, employers can ensure their employees are well cared for and, in a position to look after, and manage, their mental health during what can be a difficult time.