Yes, it’s that time of year again when your company’s end-of-year office party is high on the agenda. Some of your employees will be very much looking forward to the event you have planned. But for others it may be a trigger for feelings of stress and anxiety in the run-up to your big night.
As a manager, it’s important that these kind of events in your workplace calendar are inclusive to all those on your team. Sometimes it can be all too easy to get swept up in the excitement and festivities of office party season, and not to be aware of the potential issues or discomfort that it can mean for your colleagues and other members of staff.
In response, here are five festive party hacks to help you have the best, most inclusive event possible, where all your employees can celebrate stress- and anxiety-free.
1. Choose the right name, give the right impression
The ‘Christmas Party’ is typically the one time in the year when everyone from the company gets together socially. This generally happens at the end of the year – hence the name – but by and large the party will have very little to do with a religious or spiritual activity.
Some organisations have started to call these events ‘Festive’ or ‘Holiday’ parties to make them inclusive for all religions. After all, they’re essentially about all employees coming together to interact, be social and celebrate your achievements for the past year, rather than around any one theme.
2. Lead by example
As managers, we often forget that others are looking to us to see how we respond and behave in these social situations. Of course, you’re not there to police all the employees, but it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone is (and feels) included, that the environment is relaxed and that everyone can enjoy the event. Be sure to look out for those employees who are not necessarily part of certain ‘in-groups’, and who may be on the sidelines of the social interactions taking place.
3. Enjoy responsibly
A good manager should not let the party become an alcohol-fuelled, career-threatening event. Your employees should not feel pressured into drinking too much – by you or anyone else in their team. There’s no question that the party is a perfect opportunity for those who have worked hard together all year to let off some steam and get to know each other better. But from a health and wellbeing perspective, it’s important that you set the tone for behaviour and what is acceptable.
Office parties become infamous for a reason: this is a time when situations can get out of control. Open and free bars are never a great idea. Not only do they encourage binge-drinking behaviour, they also encourage the perception of your company as one whose employees are there to drink as much as possible until it’s time to go home.
4. Schedule an event that’s fair for all
Holding your event in the evening – or late into the night – often means it will exclude those with child-care, caring or other out-of-work responsibilities. For some, the event will cause anxiety around how they’re perceived by others. “Will I be talked about if I’m not there?” is a very likely source of concern. Many employees will stress about missing the office party, not wanting to be dismissed as “not a team player” by their colleagues. Even more extreme thinking, like “Will I lose my job if I don’t attend?”, is not uncommon either.
Holding an event at a lunchtime or in the afternoon gives everybody in the team the opportunity to attend and actively participate. The big night doesn’t always have to be a big night, after all.
5. Consider the costs
Financial wellbeing is one of the most likely causes of stress for your employees. Throwing an expensive event paid for by the company will not go down well, for instance, during times when there are head-count or salary freezes in place. For others, attending your big event may bring increased pressure to buy new outfits, out-of-town transport, babysitters or overnight accommodation, so do ensure the budget of the event is fair and reasonable for all.
You might want to think about running a smaller-sized event. Or perhaps take the opportunity to give your employees a thank you gift/bonus to show appreciation for all their hard work.
These are just some small ways that, as a manager, you can make your festive party a relaxed, inclusive and successful event for all.