Posted: Tue 26th Oct 2021
Organising this year's office Christmas party poses unique challenges for small businesses.
MD and founder of Bespoke HR, Alison King, shares her thoughts on how to approach 2021's Christmas shindig.
Most of us are now back in the office in some capacity and interacting with colleagues and customers. After the last year-and-a-half, it’s also fair to say that most of us are desperate to have things to look forward to.
So where does that leave us when it comes to celebrating with the traditional office Christmas party? Last year it was all about virtual celebrations, but now that we can get together in person, what’s the best way to manage this?
More importantly, how can you organise something that caters for everyone (especially those who may be anxious)? Here’s our guide to planning your post-lockdown 2021 Christmas party.
1. Ask your staff what they think
The most important thing to do is to gauge staff opinion. Whilst many may be keen to get out and start mixing, there may be some employees who still feel anxious about attending events. It’s important to take these into account and don’t just assume that everyone is happy to revert to the ‘traditional’ style office party.
Conducting a staff survey anonymously is the easiest way to gather opinion (you can use tools like SurveyMonkey to run a simple online questionnaire). Be sure to ask questions around the type of activity they would like (for example: would they prefer a party or a sit-down meal versus a team building exercise), whether they are happy to attend an in-person event or if they would prefer something virtual, and whether they are happy to mix in a large venue or would prefer something smaller and intimate.
If your staff are anxious or struggling coming out of lockdown, Mind has some useful resources for employers.
2. Use your event so say thank you and boost morale
After the past year-and-a-half, many businesses will be using the event as a way to thank their staff for their hard work and resilience over this period. Whatever you decide to organise, weave this message into all of your planning and be sure to include a speech to reward staff and motivate them for the year ahead.
It has been a difficult time for all of us, and we are all in need a boost of morale at the end of another challenging year.
3. Choose your venue carefully
Are your staff happy to attend an event in a restaurant, for example, which may be playing host to other parties that day? Would they prefer a smaller venue which could also reduce any anxiety about social distancing or mixing? Would they like to be doing something outside during the day?
Use the staff survey to offer a range of options and see which is most popular.
4. Check the venue’s Covid-safe policies
It sounds obvious, but it’s essential to check if the venue is geared to make staff feel comfortable. Most venues are transparent about the measures they have in place to protect staff and customers.
It’s worth sharing these with your team in advance, which can also help to reassure any anxious employees.
5. Check the cancellation policy
As we all know too well, circumstances can change rapidly which makes planning difficult. Most venues will now have a Covid cancellation policy in place but it’s essential to confirm this to avoid losing money if your plans have to change.
6. Ask staff to take a lateral flow test
This is the safest way to protect your team. Ask staff to test on the morning of the event so that everyone has peace of mind. Staff can order free tests via the government website which arrive within days of ordering.
7. Don’t rule out virtual events
Although most of us have video fatigue, there are some great virtual events available which are fun and can bring the team together. This is particularly useful if you do have anxious staff or if your team is dispersed which makes it difficult to get together in-person.
Here are just a few ideas:
Virtual escape rooms – there are lots to choose from, where your team works together to solve the clues including this one from Macmillan where the proceeds go to charity.
Chocolate making – staff can collectively take part in a group activity as the ingredients are sent in advance (this applies to any activity which can be done at home by suppling resources in advance).
Murder mystery – there are numerous apps to choose from to help your staff work as a team and solve the mystery. Props can also be sent out in advance and costumes should be at the ready!
Virtual fancy dress party – set a theme and organise prizes for the best costume.
8. It doesn’t have to be a party
A staff celebration doesn’t always have to involve a party. There are lots of great activities you can do to bring the team together. Why not look into some team events instead, such as ice skating, hosting a movie screening, afternoon tea or a spa day?
9. Do something completely different, and give back at the same time
How about a completely different spin altogether? If the idea of a party really doesn’t work for you, how about asking staff to volunteer?
There are lots of charities who need volunteers around the festive season, from food banks to Meals on Wheels. Ask your team if they would be keen to do something different or make a donation on their behalf.
Here are a few ideas we love:
Build a bike for charity – a great way to get your team working together.
Get back to nature – from building bird boxes to planting flowers at Royal Parks.
Zoom techy tea party – helping older people get the most from tech.