Celebrating Christmas 2020

Joshua Easton Tax

Season’s greetings from the very merry team at bO2 Corporate Essentials!

May Christmas bring a joyful end to the year, bright and filled with promise and be permitted our service bring fulfilment to you and your business in the coming year!

Our last day of the year is Friday 18th December.  We will return on Monday 11th January 2021.

Celebrating Christmas 2020 — what does that party look like and what matters most in the new workplace reality?

The festive season is already upon us — and though it may look different from last year, should we really be forgoing the annual office party entirely? How will you be celebrating the festive season this year?

The festive season and end-of-year celebrations should be enjoyed, but the work Christmas party can be a source of anxiety for employers who are unsure of their obligations to their workers.

It is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas – well sort of. The past year has been anything but easy. From pandemics to bush fires, lockdowns to redundancies – we have navigated a landscape of uncertainty, anxiety, and dread.

A recent phone poll found that 26% of employers have already organised a virtual celebration for staff. However, because of remote work, office and venue closures and limits, just seven percent of those surveyed are sticking with the traditional in-person office blow-out this year.

The Christmas and New Year period are notorious for employee related incidents that can have a major detrimental impact on an organisation no matter what size or configuration, the duty of care to workers remains the same as it would if they were at work. Even when it is a virtual celebration.

“When it comes to work Christmas parties, employers need to make sure workers understand what behaviour and conduct is acceptable, and what the repercussions could be if misconduct occurs.”

Work-related social functions do not necessarily create new risks, but present opportunities for issues such as sexual harassment or workplace injury to arise. In many cases, the risks are intensified by the presence of alcohol and the use of banned substances.

The typical issues are sexual harassment, fighting, drink driving, bullying (abusing work colleagues and Management -much more easily done when not face-to-face).

For some reason, the annual Christmas party can bring out the worst behaviour in otherwise good employees as many people forget in their excitement at end-of-year parties that they are still attending a work function.

There are a number of issues that employers need to consider and act upon to minimise risk.  The most effective way to ensure success is to plan for the event and foster an atmosphere of professionalism and to promote the end of year function as a reward and celebration for a year of hard work and commitment by all.

While it’s an employers’ choice how they want to reward their staff this year – with remote working becoming the norm, and the rise of remote technology, virtual office parties could possibly be another potential option for employers over the festive period.

But will employees really want to attend?

Zoom Fatigue is real. Before the pandemic, roughly two-thirds of all social interactions were face-to-face. Not anymore. That has left nearly all of us yearning for more social connection.

People who are working are already close to burning out with stress, and a party is one thing to enjoy at the end of the year – seems even this is not happening this year, with the majority of employees aged over 55 saying they’re really not bothered about celebrating this year.

According to the report, nine out of 10 workers would choose a gift voucher over a celebration – and over half of employees would not feel comfortable attending a ‘post-COVID Christmas party’.

There is no reason why Christmas parties cannot be an enjoyable end to a hard year’s work and a deserved reward for staff if some simple guidelines are applied. The key is not making the party mandatory. Employees do not want to be told they have to attend this ‘fun’ celebration – it should be a request not a requirement.

Employers need to be mindful of the fact that many employees have other responsibilities to worry about .Some may have other plans already;  – and others might simply be too drained and burned out from the past year to pretend to have fun with colleagues. 

It is not possible to remove all risks but following this advice will allow a fresh start to the New Year as opposed to meetings with lawyers or a trip to the Anti-Discrimination Tribunal Fair Work Commission or Workers Compensation Tribunal.

If everyone is clear on their responsibilities beforehand, the Christmas party will be more enjoyable for everyone.”

With 2021 finally in our sights – it is time to round the year off on a high note.