Christmas Parties in 2020

from Silk Helix
UPDATED 14 September 2020
First Published: 5 September 2020

The Christmas party, an expectation up and down the country, but in 2020, whilst lockdown has relaxed and business has reopened - the Christmas party may not be so automatic.

At the time of writing, it is difficult to see how a Christmas party can be planned - restrictions in England prevent more than 6 people gathering socially. What does that leave the options for the Christmas party? What could be done instead?

Firstly - if you are planning any kind of get together, perhaps with the expectation that restrictions will lift, risk assessments will be the key. Just as returning to places of work have required risk assessments so does the Christmas party. Consider that whilst people may be attending work with social distancing, judgement of distance is more challenging under the influence of alcohol. You may have bubbles in place to avoid all your people getting ill or having to self-isolate at the same time, but how would the Christmas party impact this? Will masks be required? In December outdoors will be more challenging - how can you ensure enough space for distance? Will the space impact the nature of the party?

You may consider those questions along with the current “rule of six” and decide that the Christmas party really isn’t the best plan for 2020. So what are the alternatives?

Why do we hold a Christmas party?

We’ve already been asked a few times this year what to do about the Christmas party and the starting point in answering this is always - why do you hold one?

It’s quite likely the Christmas party just happens each year and no one really thinks about why. It does serve a purpose. It’s a good time to get people together. It’s a team building exercise as it provides a shared experience and time to get to know one another in a more relaxed environment. It’s also a good opportunity to celebrate success and thank the team for their support and hard work throughout the year.

In remote teams the Christmas party can be a crucial face to face get together. It often involves cost and people travelling and therefore may be attached to a company conference or team meetings. These in person get-togethers are an important part of team building in remote teams. 2020 has resulted in many more people being in remote teams, in a situation where in person meetings are not permitted or more challenging. The normal circumstances of remote teams is not the experience of remote working in 2020. If you are moving to permanent remote working, it is important to factor in in-person events to benefit the team.

What are the alternatives?

If your aim is team building then something that requires a shared experience will be vital. This may in 2020 need to be remote, you may be looking at social events on Zoom. It may not be as good as the real thing, but they do work.

Sending out “party boxes” to everyone ahead of the event can put everyone in an equal position and with the shared experience of opening their box. Letter Box Hamper are one such supplier, hampers that fit through the letter box are perfect for avoiding the issue of not being in to receive the delivery.

Quizzes, bingo and similar can build the social feel. Let’s be realistic, sitting on zoom getting drunk until the small hours probably isn’t going to match up to the office Christmas party - but a short social event can build team spirits.

As more events move online the options for entertainment and running events are increasing. We’ve come across Chris Reads Minds - a magician providing a virtual mind reading show.

If you really want an in-person event outside events may be a possibility, although still may be restricted by the rule of six - it may be worth planning next years’ summer party. Create an event for people to look forward to.

Alongside team building is thanking the team and celebrating success. Thankyous can be small and token but they should be personal. Consider what that individual would appreciate if you can or something that means something to the team. Branded or personalised chocolates are one such option, like those from Chocolate Moments.

Corporate gifts can be outsourced, but consider carefully before you handover a staff list and let someone else send a batch of gifts as it risks the gifts not serving their purpose if people feel like they were done for the sake of it rather than a thoughtful thankyou.

Avoid getting it wrong

2020 has brought challenges and success to different organisations and even within organisations, some will have worked through whilst others have been on furlough. Do consider the individual circumstances of your business and people, considered the messages you are sending. A thank you can be motivating, people want to feel appreciated at work and like they have contributed to the company success. On the other hand, if there have been redundancies, it may feel out of place to be celebrating, survivor guilt is real. Where some have been on furlough leave and others have had to work through (potentially even picking up work from those of furlough), there may be resentment and anxiety on both sides. Your attempt at motivating can quickly become demotivating if people do not think the message is appropriate.

Make 2021 even bigger

The Christmas party, for many an important date in the company calendar. It does have it’s benefits, especially for remote teams. For 2020 we need to focus on what we can do, why we’re doing it and make the best of what we have. In the meantime we can start thinking about 2021 - hope the world is in a better place and we’re all ready for a big party next Christmas.

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Article last updated: 14 September 2020

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