To party or not to party – that is the question!

The Christmas period is a challenging time for many business owners, and this year will be no exception.  Normally, Christmas is a time when customers or prospective customers are in the Christmas spirit and often have a little extra cash that they’re willing to spend, so it will be interesting to see how many of us business owners approach Christmas, with many suffering losses to revenue they won’t be able to fully recover and therefore tightening our belts cost wise.

With everything that’s going on, you might not have even thought about whether or not you’ll organise or can afford a Christmas party for your employees! On paper, it’s a great idea. Everyone enjoys a chance to unwind, and this year we definitely need that! But it’s also a way to reward your employees for the hard work that they’ve put in. So what could possibly go wrong?

Generally speaking, Christmas parties get a lot of bad press. You’re probably familiar with horror stories involving workers who have taken full advantage of the free bar, and then went on to well and truly disgrace themselves and their employers. The truth of the matter here though, is these incidents are few and far between.

Yes, of course things can go wrong. But if you do some thorough planning in advance, you can avoid problems and give your staff the motivational celebration and thank you that they deserve and put 2020 to bed! Here’s our advice for making sure your Christmas party, if you are having one, goes without a hitch and you can end the year on a high note for you and your employees.

Choose a venue that meets your needs

When it comes to where you actually host your party, it’s really important that you get it right. This doesn’t mean that you should go right ahead and book your favourite wine bar in town, or the restaurant that you know specialises in your favourite dish. What’s important is that you pick somewhere that’s accessible and inclusive and will appeal to all of your employees.

Here’s what you need to think about when you’re looking for a great location that will meet all your needs:

  • Is there disabled access for any disabled members of staff that you might have working for you? Have you checked this out, so you know that it is up to scratch and comes as described?
  • What are the catering arrangements? Can the chef accommodate specific dietary requirements? You might have vegetarians in your workforce, or individuals who can’t eat certain food groups. They shouldn’t be left out or be made to feel uncomfortable
  • If you’re planning to serve alcohol, is there also an exciting range of soft drinks? The designated drivers and those who don’t drink shouldn’t be forced to stick with water all night
  • Does the venue provide entertainment? If so, make sure you know exactly what this is in advance. The last thing that you want is to find that it’s a comedian with distasteful or offensive jokes
  • Does the venue allow under-18s to attend events? If you have younger members of staff, this is an important question to ask

Of course, your budget is likely to play a big role in choosing where you hold your party. You may have to shop around a little to make sure that you’re balancing your needs with the financials of any Christmas get together. The points above though are non-negotiable. If you have a venue in mind but it doesn’t tick these boxes, you need to go straight back to the drawing board.

Invite ALL members of staff

Don’t make assumptions about who will and won’t want to attend your Christmas party. Absolutely everyone who you employ should receive an invitation. This includes temporary staff, seasonal staff, those who are currently on sick leave or parental leave, maternity leave, or on the Job Support Scheme.

If some of your staff don’t currently have access to their work email, you might have to think of another way to invite them along, perhaps a personal invite sent to their home address?

This may seem like such a small consideration, but if you get this wrong, it could have serious consequences. Do you really want to create a divide in your workforce?

Do keep in mind that some people may not be able to attend, or they may just not want to. You can’t force anyone to come along, but it is acceptable to ask for confirmations, or an RSVP, so you can make more concrete plans regarding the arrangements on the big day.

Have a chat with your accountant about a potential tax break

You may be able to recoup some of your expenses from your party in the form of a tax break. Finding out how this could apply to you could help you to work out exactly where you stand, and how much you could afford to spend. Get in touch with your accountant to discuss your options and find out what you’ll have to do if you want to go down this path.

Make sure that your staff know what is expected of them

Before the party, bring your staff together and have a chat about what you expect of them. Spirits are likely to be high, and you won’t want to put a dampener on things, but a little clear communication at the start of the process can really go a long way.

Be sure to outline the arrangements regarding coming into work the next day if applicable. If it’s necessary for all staff to turn up at their usual time, make this clear, and explain that usual policies and procedures will be followed if any problems come to light.

It’s worth noting that there’s no point in being strict about this just for the sake of it. If operational requirements allow, then being flexible could be a gesture that’s much appreciated by your staff.

Finally, before the event, organise a meeting with your line managers. If something does go wrong, you may decide that it would fall under their area of responsibility to deal with the issue. They should therefore be aware of what they need to do if required and should have the confidence to deliver.

Help your staff to get home safely

Your staff should feel safe when attending your Christmas party. This includes the end of the evening, and their arrangements for getting home. You might decide that you can stretch your budget and cover a minibus to drop everyone off at their front door. You don’t have to do this though. You can simply offer to organise safe transport home, but may need to ask for a contribution to cover the costs.

Get staff involved with the organisation of the party

Many companies have social committees to help organise events like Christmas parties, and this could be something that you try out this year.

The benefits can be quite extensive when you start exploring the possibilities. Of course, you should make the opportunity available to all members of staff and ensure that you have a good mix of representation from across your business. In practical terms, this will probably mean that you have representatives from different functional areas of your business, as well as from varying levels of seniority.

Not only can this take the pressure off you as a business owner, but it also provides an opportunity for members of staff to work alongside other team members that they might not come into contact with during the course of their everyday tasks.

This can be great for morale and building team spirit, and it gives staff a real chance to shine and fully embrace their new responsibilities.

If you have an office junior, for example, that you think could be wonderful management material but they’ve never really had the opportunity to prove it, this could be a great way to get them involved in a diverse range of tasks and flex their management potential.

A final note…

Organising a successful Christmas party can be challenging, but it can also be a sensible move if you want to show your staff just how much you’ve appreciated their efforts and commitment over what has undoubtedly been a challenging year.

A Christmas party though is never a sticky plaster that can be used as a temporary solution to fix deeply engrained problems that may exist within your company culture. If you’re concerned that you’re staff aren’t performing as they should be, or you suspect that you have low levels of engagement, it may be time to get to the root cause of the problem.

We know that you’re busy at the moment, and we understand that, but the longer you leave it, the worse your situation is likely to become.  If you want to get in touch with us, we can schedule a virtual cuppa, to discuss where you are right now and what your options are, which could be just what you need to get back on track in 2021. You’re much more likely to be able to relax and enjoy the Christmas celebrations if you know that you’ve got a plan!