Last reviewed 25 November 2020
With certain coronavirus restrictions set to remain in place across the UK for the Christmas period, many of our usual festivities may need to be changed, or cancelled completely, this year. Ben McCarthy, lead researcher and employment law writer at Croner-i, examines how employers can keep staff morale up during this period.
With Christmas just around the corner, many companies would usually be hard at work planning for events related to the season, such as Christmas parties, Secret Santa and Christmas jumper days. However, as with most other things in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic remains a key issue, one which will make organising many of the usual Christmas activities difficult. With this in mind, employers may be considering ways that can still organise Christmas events in a safe, Covid-secure way. Others may be wondering if they should simply cancel everything altogether.
This article forms part of a series of articles concerning Christmas that we will be publishing to the site over the festive period.
The benefits of Christmas events at work
There is no doubt that Christmas events at work can be very popular with a company’s workforce, helping to improve both morale and productivity levels. This is because they can be used as a way to reward staff for their hard work; returning to the Christmas party example, the party can remind staff that the company appreciates everything they do and wants them to have a good time with their colleagues. Christmas events, such as a company quiz, can also help staff to interact more with colleagues, potentially helping them to speak to those they may not have chance to in a normal working day and ultimately work towards building more successful working relationships in general. It is important to remember that a happier workforce is more likely to remain productive and loyal to a company.
All of this will not change during this year’s Christmas. People across the country will face continued coronavirus restrictions, something that has now been a normal part of our lives since March. At a time when people look forward to spending time with their families, and celebrating Christmas with their colleagues, it is likely that instead they are feeling increased levels of anxiety, uncertainty and frustration. Couple that with their employers cancelling all usual Christmas events completely and company morale may reach an all-time low. With this in mind, it is highly advisable that employers try to keep some level of Christmas cheer alive at work, albeit in a different way than usual.
Organising Christmas events in 2020
So, if employers want to organise some level of Christmas celebration this year, what options are open to them? The first event that will likely be called into question is the annual Christmas party. Due to Covid restrictions, it is highly unlikely that a party will be possible this year, meaning that employers may need to make the difficult decision to cancel it. This will probably come as no surprise, but the key question is what can take its place?
The absence of an external social event does not mean that Christmas events do not need to be permitted in-house. Christmas quizzes, for example, could be allowed to go ahead but through the use of software such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams. In this way, all staff can be included even if some of them are working from home, while contact between those in the workplace can also continue to be kept at a minimum. Other workplace celebrations, such as Christmas jumper days, can also easily be permitted whilst also maintaining social distancing, as can other workplace perks, like early finishes on Christmas Eve. Furthermore, while Christmas decorations in the workplace may need to be limited, mainly so cleaners can still conduct their duties unimpeded, they can still be permitted if these restrictions are outlined to staff. Employees can even be permitted to exchange Secret Santa gifts, however it is highly advisable to reduce contact between staff by quarantining all gifts for at least 72 hours before distributing them.
Potential pitfalls to avoid
When organising Christmas events this year, aside from the obvious safety element, there are a number of key areas to bear in mind. The first is inclusivity. As usual, any events that are organised should be done in a way that includes the highest number of staff. Remember, different staff members will have different interests and care should be taken not to exclude anyone on this basis. One way of tackling this is asking employees for ideas on Christmas events they would like to be organised, bearing in mind what is possible at this current time. It is also important to make sure no employee is forced into taking part in something they do not want to – any Christmas event should be completely optional for staff.
Companies should also take care in relation to how much a Christmas event is going to cost. If employers have spent the last few months making difficult decisions on redundancies and reducing staff pay, it is likely to not be well received by their staff if they then spend large amounts of money on Christmas presents or events. It may be difficult to justify reducing hours, or even placing staff on furlough, if the company is suddenly able to afford an extravagant Christmas. Decisions should be made that are reasonable, considering what the company can actually afford to do at this time.
The pandemic is certainly going to give us a different Christmas this year, but it does not mean that all Christmas festivities need to be cancelled. When properly planned and implemented, a company can continue to show appreciation to its staff through Christmas events, at the end of what has been a challenging year for all.
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