As the office party season gets going, workplace mental health organisation Mente urges managers to be mindful about how they plan their celebrations.
It might not be December yet, but many people are already talking about their office Christmas celebrations. Yet as Christmas party season approaches, research shows that the tradition is disliked among large sections of the workforce. In fact, many employees have admitted that they would prefer to receive a small bonus rather than attend the office Christmas party.
Company Christmas parties done well can be great for team bonding and boosting morale. They give recruitment firms the chance to celebrate the year gone by and all of the achievements. Companies are also shelling out vast sums of money on the celebrations. In fact, according to research by the events management firm Eventbrite, UK companies splashed out almost £1bn on parties last Christmas, spending £42.48 per employee on average.
But not everybody enjoys the tradition of the office Christmas party. In fact, a 2014 survey of 700 office workers found that only about a quarter of people said they looked forward to office Christmas parties. A fifth said they hated them, and the remainder said that they were ambivalent or only went because they felt they had to. And 71% of employees have also admitted that they would rather have a small cash bonus than a party.
There can be valid and serious personal reasons for disliking, or even dreading, the tradition. For example, someone may be struggling financially and may be unable to cover the party’s associated expenses. Some costs are also less obvious too, such as hiring babysitters.
Others may find the workplace party environment tough on their mental health. For example, someone with social anxiety disorder may experience unpleasant symptoms like panic attacks or nausea. Alternatively, someone could be fighting an alcohol addiction and may find it extremely challenging to be around others who are drinking.
Mente, who help recruitment firms and businesses look after the mental health of their employees, have said that organisations should ensure attendance at office Christmas parties is seen as genuinely voluntary. They also suggest that organisations should ask employees about what kind of events they would actually want to attend, and make plans based on this consultation.
Mel Joseph, managing director of Mente, said: “For many people, the workplace Christmas party induces feelings of dread. Not everyone is a hugely social being and some people feel overwhelmed at such events. Plan things that people actually want, but be mindful about the fact that there are many reasons why someone may not feel comfortable going. Make attendance truly voluntary and don’t make a big deal about it if someone declines to go.”
Whatever your organisation is looking to do to celebrate, it is best organised as part of a year-round wellbeing strategy that will help to create and sustain high morale.