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It’s the Office Christmas Party, what could possibly go wrong?

Getting the whole team together before Christmas for some festive office party fun is a great way to end the year. But is it a recipe for something more than a risqué secret Santa present and tactical wall slide to avoid the mistletoe? Take a whole year’s worth of frustrations, and mix them with the source of many an HR nightmare: alcohol. Prepare for a result more fiery than your Christmas pudding.

Minimising the impact of the works Christmas Office Party

It’s important to give staff a chance to let off steam in the run up to Christmas, and to reward them for their contribution to the business. People who wouldn’t normally communicate can build relationships. Existing bonds may strengthen in a way that no meeting could ever achieve.

Social events such as the company Christmas Party benefit HR too. Hosting a good party is really attractive to potential future recruits interested in the social aspects of working for you. And the recognition received from a party could prove vital in retaining key members of staff!

But at the same time, it’s a risky game for employers to play: inappropriate behaviour, unwanted advances, discrimination and misconduct could all make an uninvited appearance. Dealing with Xmas party feuds is something The HR Dept prepares for annually. Don’t forget that this is a work related event – all employees run the risk of disciplinary action for unacceptable behaviour. Here are a few things to watch out for.

Beforehand, let staff know that the party will be an extension of the workplace. Something as simple as this may help some to differentiate between the office party and their usual Saturday night out! A policy for work social events may also help to establish the ground rules.

Again, before the Xmas party, make sure you’re properly accommodating all of your staff. Consider those that don’t celebrate Christmas. Some religions and faiths do not allow the consumption of alcohol or certain foods, so make sure alternatives are made available. Certain venues may be unsuitable for staff with disabilities. Failure to consider this may drastically damage your relationship with them.

It’s at the party, when the drinks are flowing, where issues are most likely to occur. Inappropriate behaviour, banter that’s taken too far and even gross misconduct and sexual harassment cases can give you a real headache the next morning. If any of the above occurs, again remember that the Christmas party is an extension of the workplace, so you have every right to investigate and take action. Remember to call The HR Dept for assistance with this process.

Don’t underestimate the damage that can be done in the new playground of social media. Staff posting pictures of the work Christmas party with colleagues are representing your brand online. Employees may find embarrassing photos of them online – typically uploaded to social media sites like Facebook – by colleagues, that they wish would disappear. They may come to you as their manager/employer for help with getting the incriminating pictures taken down and removed. Ensure work related internet usage policies are in place to protect you and your staff.

To get around this, why not appoint one person to take photographs of the night, and give all the chance to choose the pictures that they want. You may even find some good pictures to support your recruitment efforts.

Now, it’s the morning after and you’ve got through free of trouble. There are smiles all round from the festivities of last night. Don’t count your lucky stars too soon though!

The following morning has historically dealt some nasty surprises to employers in the form of unexpected absences. Some may be forgiven for nursing a slight headache the following day, but it should be business as usual unless specified otherwise. Short term absences are extremely disruptive, and leave a sour taste in the mouths of others who have to pick up additional work to cover for the employee. The HR Dept absence management service will be key in helping you to prevent and manage unauthorised absences.

We hope that you have a fabulous and people-problem-free Christmas party season. But if problems arise, make sure you get in touch with The HR Dept.