Ho, ho, ho..: Having a stress-free Christmas in the office

Tis the season to be jolly – and in offices across the country people are donning their Santa hats, looking forward to a stress-free Christmas and heading off to the company Christmas bash.

Now if the doom and gloom in the press is to be believed, the work Christmas party is less of a celebration and more of a disaster waiting to happen. The scare-mongerers are out in full force – warning companies of the need to assess the risks, ensure the health and safety of all involved and make sure they don’t leave themselves open to claims of harassment and discrimination.

Of course it is important to make sure that nothing illegal or potentially damaging takes place during your festive celebrations. But I think we could all do with a bit less ‘bah humbug’ and a bit more ‘ho ho ho…’ It’s almost like we have become so scared of putting a foot wrong that we have forgotten the Christmas party is actually supposed to be about enjoying ourselves.

Sadly, during the many festive do’s I’ve attended over the years, I have never witnessed Phil from accounts trying to photocopy his posterior or had to drag a drunken colleague out of the coat cupboard. Perhaps I’ve been going to the wrong kind of parties – but generally, letting their hair down and having a bit of harmless fun is what most employees set out to do at their corporate celebrations.

It’s a time to celebrate the achievements of the past year and to thank staff for their hard work and support. It’s also a great opportunity to build team spirit, for managers to maybe lighten up a little and allow colleagues to socialise away from the pressures of work and to perhaps see each other in a different light. It’s difficult to maintain a feud with Maureen from Marketing when you’ve sat opposite each other in a silly hat and sniggered over the jokes in the Christmas cracker.

A few ‘silly season’ surveys have suggested that many companies have actually cancelled their Christmas parties this year in a bid to cut costs. It might seem to make financial sense – but it’s probably one of the most demotivating moves a business could make.

Even if budgets dictate that your bash can’t be as lavish as usual, employees will appreciate that you’ve at least made an effort to acknowledge their contribution. They will understand that times are hard and that there may not be much more than a drink on offer, but even that small gesture will be appreciated.

Us freelance writers, of course, don’t get to have a work party – unless you count a mince pie and a glass of mulled wine at home in front of the telly. I have, however, been invited to gatecrash a festive gathering of local HR folk, where everyone will, of course, be perfectly well behaved.

So as I head off for my turkey, may I wish you a stress-free Christmas, a quiet day at work tomorrow and at least one inappropriate present in the office secret Santa.

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