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A pain-free workplace Christmas

The December holidays can be a lot of fun – definitely an opportunity at the end of a long year to let the hair down a little. And yet… with vicarious liability, duty of care and/or workplace health and safety concerns, just arranging mince pies and mistletoe in the office can be an employer’s nightmare.

Last year, this blog offered a quick guide to the Xmas party, but the party isn’t all that happens at Christmas…

Festive decorations

A few streamers, a tree, flickering lights, they can all change the atmosphere of the office in December, bringing a hint of colourful fun even when there’s serious work to be done. Encourage people to join in and decorate their own workspaces. And it doesn’t all have to be artificial – how about some holly, poinsettias, even a real tree?! And how about edible decorations? Or just bowls of seasonal fruits or chocolates (depending on whether you fancy healthy or not).

Fun & games

How about a Christmas contest? Something fun, not overly personal, and non-compulsory (there’s nothing worse than forced jollity). It might be best decorations, or best (worst?) Xmas jumper, or even ‘identify the colleague from their baby photo’ – the idea is to build a bit of team spirit through fun.

Of course, maybe the most common office Christmas game is Secret Santa, where each participant buys a small, anonymous gift for a randomly selected colleague. Lots of fun, so long as it doesn’t turn mean or inappropriate (sometimes, the anonymity of the gift is used to make a joke or take a dig at a colleague’s expense – underwear, deodorant, and anything sexual are right out!). Maybe there are issues that need dealing with, but let’s not use Xmas to do so.

Be inclusive

Remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas and many employees may have other ‘December festivals’. Besides, even if everyone’s on board, there’ll be different views on the details (for example, some find Roy Wood and Wizzard positively motivating, others the exact opposite). On a more serious note, if you ask your teams, you might find they want to celebrate Chanukah and Kwanzaa as well as Christmas.

The morning after

If you do have an office party then think about the condition of your people the following day (assuming it’s a work day, if not, they can lie in as long as they like). Of course, not everyone drinks alcohol but it IS popular at this time of year and some hangovers are to be expected.

Think about giving everyone the morning off if your business can stand it – after all, headaches (or worse, still feeling inebriated) are not good for performance.

Finally, all of the above is good advice and certainly things to consider carefully BUT… it’s also Christmas, it’s meant to be a celebration. The key balancing act for the employer in December is to keep things ‘safe’ but also fun.

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