Danni Rush, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Experience Days and Virgin Incentives, explains how businesses can celebrate Christmas now Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.
Christmas is a special time of year to celebrate with friends and family – and also work. The Christmas party is an important milestone in the company calendar, giving workforces an opportunity to relax, unwind and create a new shared memory. This can have important benefits for improving team cohesion and employee retention rates by making people feel valued and included.
The Christmas party is also a great opportunity for businesses to recognise the efforts of their team over the year and reward them. At a time of year when many feel less engaged, it can help to motivate a weary workforce after a challenging year. This is particularly pertinent in 2021.
After a difficult 18 months since the start of the pandemic and having missed out on Christmas festivities last year due to lockdown restrictions, many employees will be eager to see a return of the work Christmas party and a return to normality. After all, people have had few opportunities to meet and enjoy a collective celebration.
With the government resisting calls for the implementation of restrictive measures, Christmas 2021 as it stands looks set to go ahead uninhibited – giving businesses the green light to start planning their Christmas party.
Planning the Christmas party
First of all, you will need to choose the venue. Depending on budgets and the number of attendees it will either be in the office or at an external venue. Then you have to choose a date and pin it down as early as possible with as much advance notice as possible to increase attendance. These two elements will give you strong foundations to begin planning the finer details of the event.
It wouldn’t be much of a party without any guests. Announcing the party is the fun part and drip-feeding information with a ‘Save the Date’ email for example can help to build excitement. And last but not least you need to add the final flourishes with inclusive food and drink options for a variety of dietary requirements and preferences, as well as entertainment. It may be that the venue organises it on your behalf, but if not, then you should consider planning entertainment – even if it’s as simple as music for people to dance to or games for them to play. And if there’s extra budget then why not consider luxuries such as a photo booth with props, a live band or a blackjack table for example.
Adding extra Christmas sparkle
Whatever you choose to do with your Christmas party budget – big or small – it’s always important to consult your employees in the decision-making process. Using an anonymous survey or asking for everyone to share feedback on or get involved with the planning process can ensure you successfully tailor the party to popular demand and add that personal touch that makes the party feel extra special. It’s also a great way to show employees that you care about their input and make them feel part of the social fabric of the company.
Understandably, there may be some sore heads the day after the party. Whether employees are drinking or not, they’re bound to feel tired and less productive. Showing an understanding and appreciation of that with snacks in the office, a late start the following day or a company-wide ‘work from home’ day.
You can also prolong the feel-good feeling in the office with extra treats to thank people – such as hampers, gift cards & vouchers or team rewards. Going the extra mile for the Christmas party can help to create brand advocates out of your workers and elevate your employee wellbeing support package above others amid a competitive labour market.
Adapting to the post-pandemic era
Although the success of the vaccine rollout thankfully seems to have put the worst of the pandemic behind us, we are still living with the virus. Your team will be wary of the potential risks involved and businesses have a responsibility to work with venues to put in place assurances and then communicate these effectively to allay any lingering concerns before the party. From providing masks and sanitisers to testing employees before entry, businesses should always put the health and safety of their workers first.
If nothing else, the last 18 months has taught us not to take anything for granted – including work Christmas parties. While the likelihood is that they will go ahead as planned, there’s no guarantee and businesses should prepare contingency plans in case of cancellation or issues with suppliers involved with the event.
Firstly, sign a contract with the venue and ensure cancellation protection is included within the agreement. This will protect your investment and give you peace of mind. If the event unfortunately doesn’t go ahead for whatever reason, you should be able to postpone or get a refund and use the funds elsewhere. For example, businesses could use the money instead to gift people with personalised or flexible vouchers to give employees something to look forward to if the Christmas party is cancelled. Or a team experience that can be enjoyed together in the new year. These are great options to create shared memories – in particular for businesses with smaller company social budgets – and are more flexible than a large-scale company-wide event.
However you choose to treat your team this Christmas, it’s a special time of year and a perfect opportunity to thank your employees for all their hard work. After having it cancelled in 2020, this year will be the first Christmas that everyone can let loose together since the start of the pandemic. Make this year’s Christmas an unforgettable one for all the right reasons.
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