To borrow a phrase that originally referred to the swinging sixties, if you remember your office Christmas party, you weren’t really there. This annual celebration has become something of an institution in London’s working culture. The Christmas party is invariably a hedonistic release of pent up party energy. Great memories are created, then are unceremoniously washed away by the very sea of alcohol which helped forge them in the first place! What is it about office parties?

Many employees enjoy the opportunity to spend social time with each other, but sadly, the natural inclination of employers is to subject their valued employees to cringeworthy ‘team building’ exercises or mediocre sit-down meals in brightly lit venues. Finally, the year of ‘event-avoidance’ culminates with the Christmas party, booked by Maureen in HR sometime in March without any employee consultation whatsoever. That’s not to say that the instinct to pull teams together socially should be resisted by employers – au contraire – there’s always a case for a celebration and we know the team that plays together stays together. The key is not simply treating these parties as alcohol fuelled revelries, but as genuine opportunities to get to know those around you.

Christmas should never have a monopoly over the years’ worth of party spirit. There are plenty of opportunities throughout the year to throw a little shindig with your colleagues to show how much you appreciate them. To this end, here are a few seasonal thoughts to mull over.

Create a frightfully good spirit this Halloween

Halloween is just around the corner, and it’s a great opportunity to have a little fun in the office. OK so London doesn’t enforce All Hallows Eve with quite the same gusto as our American city counterparts, but that’s not to say you can’t give it a run for its money. A little thought and organisation can go a long way.

Not everyone wants to board the tube at 7am dressed as the undead

Dressing up in the office is a great way to get the party started, but not everyone wants to board the tube at 7am dressed as the undead. Why not encourage dressing up over an extended lunchbreak, complete with a ghoulish themed buffet? Decorate your office accordingly and throw a little light music a la Thriller or Rocky Horror – depending on your level of cheese.

If you’re more generous with your leisure time, an afternoon of party games can be a lot of fun (for most, don’t inflict anything on those who don’t like them), particularly in Halloween fancy dress, as dressing up can dampen inhibition. There are a whole heap of Halloween party game ideas online that will produce better team bonding results than any amount of paintballing.

Finally, don’t forget prizes, they’re literally always a winner.

Remember, remember the 5th of November

Guy Fawkes was an English soldier and a member of a group of Roman Catholic conspirators who attempted to launch a Gunpowder Plot to assassinate King James I of England as well as all members of both houses of the Parliament of England with a huge explosion – which was prevented by his arrest on 5 November 1605. Now, if that’s not an excuse for a party, what is?

We have much to thank Mr Fawkes for, particularly those of us who harbour a secret pyromaniac within. Catherine Wheels, burning effigies atop dangerously precarious bonfires, hot punch, rockets, candy floss, music, gloved hands holding sparklers – and of course the oohs and aahs of a whooshing and sparkling night sky.

There is absolutely no need to finance an extravagant firework display, but why not take the opportunity to offer some hot apple punch at the end of the working day and a few drinks in a local boozer before tripping off in warm coats to watch a firework event? London is lit up by a plethora of firework displays across the city – and here’s a handy list of venues to get you started.

It’s not too early to use the C-word

Why are Christmas parties such an indulgently overblown event?  Are they a tenuous testament to the Christian message that lies behind this holiday season? Given the excesses that these shindigs tend to involve, this seems unlikely. Employees jump on Christmas as a rare chance to let their hair down in each other’s company.

This letting down of hair is precisely why the Christmas party can be too much for some people. Mistletoe and alcohol induced incidents are rife, and the date becomes viewed with trepidation as much as anticipation. The result of this management expectation can often be a blow-out rather than a real chance to socialise and forge stronger relationships with co-workers.

Whereas most large organisations will have booked their parties before the first glimmer of Spring sun, there are a number of smaller organisations and start-ups dotted around London who will be frantically organising their parties in November and December. We’ll put together an ideas blog in November for the late-comers but consider this your timely reminder. If you’re a start-up or micro organisation, why not consider teaming up with some other similar sized companies in your space? This can improve ambiance and also allow you to party in a larger venue without feeling like you’ve inadvertently stumbled across the Mary Celeste’s xmas dig.

There is something more subtle, more intimately human about the value of a good old, fashioned jolly

‘Authentic’ workplace parties are a fantastic way to create a positive atmosphere within a team or organisation – and you can decide for yourself what constitutes ‘authentic’ as it’s very subjective. It’s not just about the pleasures of a good knees-up, but more the shared memories which are taken away and shared time and again – hopefully for the right reasons. These memories are vital for creating lasting and meaningful relationships with co-workers. As a number of our earlier blogs have shown, a happy workforce is a more productive workforce.

In other news, the worth of a party can’t be measured in purely financial terms, so don’t be put off throwing a party just because your budget appears somewhat malnourished. There is something more subtle, more intimately human about the value of a good old-fashioned jolly, where glasses are clinked and jokes are shared – fondness and companionship is kindled – warm feelings which should hopefully carry though into the next working year, and beyond.

 

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