The holiday season is in full swing, and for many businesses the highlight of the corporate calendar is looming – the annual Christmas party.
The festive period sees people relax their boundaries when it comes to several elements in which they usually apply self-control. Whether that’s the money they spend, the calories they consume, alcohol they drink – or just their general demeanour. Yes, it seems that we view Christmas time as a time to let our hair down.
And of course, the office Christmas party is included in this – they give employees the chance to be rewarded for all the hard work throughout the past year, to enjoy themselves and cement relationships with their colleagues. However, from experience, we all know that the reality often means that managers have to turn a blind eye to unsavoury behaviour and develop either a thick skin or selective hearing when alcohol manifests as Dutch courage and the ‘home truths’ begin to spill out.
No one wants to be known as the office ‘Scrooge’, but organisations need to be aware of potential liabilities and should consider managing events such as these by introducing a social event policy.
These policies will reinforce the message that although events such as the annual Christmas party is a social event, it is still a work event and therefore, employees should conduct themselves appropriately. This policy should clearly outline expectations and communicate this to employees.
Re-iterating the policy verbally prior to the event should strengthen the expectations, especially when it comes to drinking responsibly and being aware of their actions towards themselves and the impact that this can have, both on others and on the company’s reputation.
Businesses must shoulder some of the responsibility for how much alcohol they are providing and therefore the amount that is consumed. This can be monitored by giving employees drink tokens or setting a maximum spend at the bar.
The policy should include cultural sensitivities; through personal choice, or religious beliefs, some people may not drink alcohol. An emphasis should be placed on the fact that these events are an opportunity to bond with colleagues – not purely for drinking.
Perhaps one of the most topical points to cover is social media. Your policy should outline what is and isn’t acceptable to post online. It’s great to promote your company in a positive fun and modern way, but you don’t want to risk language and pictures damaging the employer brand.
It’s also important that company expenses are covered – make sure you outline what expenses are allowed at work events so there is no room for misunderstandings.
Ensure that you set expectations for the following day; if you are celebrating late into the night then employees should be required to pre-book the next day off as annual leave if they don’t feel they would be able to come into work on time – or be productive!
With a social event policy in place, everyone can enjoy the festivities without compromising their work relationships or roles!
Words by Aisha Oakley, head of HR – Consultancy and Outsourcing at the Bradfield Group