All the trimmings – 5 festive workplace ideas to encourage employee engagement

Yes I’m mentioning the ‘C’ word – Christmas is coming and as usual you need to think of something your team will really engage with for the festive season. However, the tired old Christmas party may well not be the best approach.

Is it worth the effort to ‘do Christmas’?

This is a persistent question that we all ask ourselves around this time of year. In most cases though, I suspect what we are actually asking ourselves is ‘does anyone really care if we don’t bother’? If you take a quick look around the internet on the subject of whether workforces actually want a Christmas party, you will find plenty of evidence telling you that they would prefer a bonus or pay rise instead. It’s tempting therefore to throw your hands in the air and give up. Not doing something for Christmas could be a mistake in the current employment landscape though. Remember that this is about saying thank you. It is about taking some time to acknowledge the work and effort put in by your team. Done right the festive season celebration can generate loyalty, engagement, and encourage an enthusiastic start to the new year.

The ‘is Christmas okay?’ question

Despite the divisive rumours some people like to spread on social media, Christmas has not been banned. Whether you use the word ‘Christmas’ is really up to you and what is right for your workplace. What those over sensationalised posts are usually referring to is where companies with a diverse workforce have acknowledged that not everyone celebrates in the same way. It’s about respect and inclusivity, not cancelling a tradition. Rather than worry about which word will work best, why not concentrate on showing inclusivity in the events you organise by finding ways of including all the workforce?

1. Don’t go with the traditional Christmas booze bash

Unless point 2 below tells you a different story, you may find that a lot of your workforce don’t want a boozy night of streamers and dancing. Too much alcohol and workforces can be a bad mix. I think we have all been to one of the horror story knees ups where a few drinks have led to fight in the car park or some, shall we say, uninhibited behaviour, that would haunt an employee for months. I’ve got plenty of HR stories to tell on this one!

When you consider that there are large numbers of people in the UK who struggle with alcohol issues, who cannot drink for religious reasons or due to a medical condition and some simply choose not to, no wonder many employees avoid the Christmas party.

This doesn’t mean you need to ban drinking, but maybe you could encourage a second, more informal, gathering arranged by the workforce themselves for those who do want a night on the tiles. Another option is to start your official celebration earlier and finish in time for those who want a more pub-based night to continue with their own agenda afterwards.

Whatever you do, we recommend that you always make sure you are inviting people to attend and not putting pressure on them to be there. Everyone resents feeling like they have the obligation to turn up to something they really don’t want to do just to fit in or not be seen as The Grinch.

2. Have you asked the team?

It is a bit of a leap of judgement to assume that everyone wants party hats, a free bar and balloons. Why not ask the team what they want to do? Make it clear that it is about enjoying each other’s company and celebrating the past year. Leave the traditional Christmas knees up on the table as an option if you like, but let the workforce have the final decision.

3. Does it need to be a Christmas event?

If you decide to go the route of your event being less of a Christmas party and more of a celebration of the past year, then you may not want to have it in the festive season at all. One of the complaints people sometimes have about Christmas parties is that they are right in the middle of a lot of other events. Not only can they be inconvenient, but they can also feel like just one more party in a party season. A nice event to cheer everyone up in the middle of grey and gloomy January may go down much better and the chances are the budget will go further.

4. Think outside the box

There is nothing that says you need to go traditional. Grab a tourist guide and take a look at the events and fun activities that you could do instead. How about a trip to a Christmas market and a meal? Perhaps an escape room challenge or a murder mystery night? Maybe even something off the wall like an Indoor barbeque with a Hawaiian theme or money free casino nights?

The list is endless it’s just a matter of making sure it’s suitable for the team.

5. Let it go….Let it go

Sorry, couldn’t resist a bit of Frozen there. If your team genuinely doesn’t want to have a celebration event, then don’t force it. A cash bonus, a reward card, a little thank you ceremony in workplace where you hand out a thoughtful gift or similar, may well be enough to say that ‘thank you, you are appreciated’. The baseline is ensuring your team know they have your respect and gratitude.

One final thought…

If you do have a Christmas party whether it is held at the local pub or in a fancy hotel, it should be considered an extension of the workplace. That means employees are potentially still under the restrictions of their contract and employers may be vicariously responsible for their actions. It’s probably a good idea to make sure everyone has been issued with behaviour guidelines and is fully aware of the consequences of their actions.

If there is anything we can do to help with your HR at Christmas or any other time, call us on 01604 261380 and let’s chat.

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