December can only mean one thing.
That time of year that’s loved and hated in equal measure.
For many, office parties are the highlight of the work social calendar, a time to let their hair down, have a few drinks and dance the night away.
But for others it’s another thing to juggle, a babysitter to arrange, a new social situation to put themselves in, a night of being the only sober person in a room full of tipsy co-workers.
In a world that is focusing on becoming more inclusive, does the Christmas party still have a place? Or does it need to catch up with society?
Inclusive in every aspect
At Ambition we're making a real effort to champion inclusivity.
It's not just the right thing to do, but due to the many, many benefits, both to the business and to individuals, that come from creating an inclusive workplace.
But even if you’ve got the most inclusive recruitment process, an inclusive office space, and inclusive working practices, if you're still ending the year with an alcohol-fuelled knees up, you aren’t inclusive.
When you think of Christmas parties, you typically think of a few things.
An evening, alcohol, loud music.
If you’ve got caring responsibilities you’re excluded.
If you don’t drink you’re excluded.
If you don’t celebrate Christmas, you’re excluded.
For a business to wear their inclusive badge with pride, that inclusivity needs to extend to the social aspects of the business as well as the practical.
Inclusivity is for life, not just for Christmas!
Christianity is the UK’s official religion. But with only 46.2% of the population identifying as Christian, 37.2% identifying as having no religion, 6.5% Muslim and 1.7% Hindu, 0.9% Sikh and 0.5% Jewish maybe it’s time for us to recognise that.
In your business, do you celebrate any other religious holidays? Chances are you don’t. Or if you do, it’s done in a token way rather than the all out celebrations that tend to happen at Christmas.
In order to be truly inclusive, we need to think about all of our employees, their beliefs and how we can respect and celebrate those.
Those changes could be as simple as rebranding the Christmas party away from Secret Santa and Santa hats to an end-of-year celebration.
Taking a moment to reflect and celebrate the year just gone.
It might seem like a small change, and it is, but shifting the focus away from a religious holiday starts to make it a more inclusive event.
Creating a more inclusive office party
At Ambition we are trying to do better – this year we have held our end of year party during the daytime to make it inclusive and we put on an activity and dinner, so it’s not just all about the booze.
We know there’s more to be done, but we’re making a conscious effort to become more inclusive.
We’ve done a lot of research on how we can become more inclusive and here are some of the factors you should consider when you’re planning your office social calendar.
Food and drink
This can be one of the most contentious areas when it comes to parties, particularly for those with specific diets. There’s nothing more frustrating than going to a party only to find there’s nothing you can eat. Or that the specific food for you has been consumed by someone else.
Similarly if you don’t drink, and you turn up to the party to find that the welcome drink only has an alcoholic option, or that it’s wine on the table or water. It doesn’t make you feel included.
Thinking in advance about the options available and the prominence of food and drink in your party is a great starting point for creating an inclusive environment.
Time of day
After work parties seem like the obvious answer. It gives people a chance to relax, it doesn’t impact the working day and everyone likes going out….right?
We guarantee that not all parents or those with caring responsibilities are going to be thrilled when they see the start time. It’s another obstacle that they have to overcome to be able to attend, and for some that might stop them turning up.
There can also be a safety issue for women or those with complicated commutes if they’re heading home drunk late at night. When your event doesn’t finish until 11pm, you’re asking your employees to be responsible when they’re in a slightly vulnerable position.
Instead of the traditional Christmas lunch or drinks, have you thought about doing an activity? Focusing the attention on a predetermined activity can help make the event less intimidating for those that might shy away from social situations.
Escape rooms, scavenger hunts, quizzes or masterclasses can be great team building opportunities while still incorporating a social element.
Compulsory or optional
Are your employees on a three-line whip to attend?
While office parties can be a powerful way to encourage team bonding and bring everyone together, that can also place a lot of pressure on individuals who might not be comfortable or able to attend.
Making your attendance policy clear in advance, and genuinely being ok with non-attendance can help to create a more inclusive, flexible approach for all of your employees.
We mean accessible in 2 ways. First up in the traditional way. How accessible is your venue? Does it cater to all of your team’s needs?
But also in the world of remote working, how accessible is your event to your remote teams? Are you putting the onus of attending solely on them or are you helping facilitate them to attend by assisting with transport or accommodation?
Accessibility goes beyond disabilities, and we need to start thinking about how accessible our events are for every single employee.
Speak to your team
We can’t build inclusive workplaces and parties on our own. We need to understand what our employees need, what they want and what we can do for them. The only way we’re going to know that is by talking to them.
Don’t guess. Don’t assume.
Create an open dialogue with your employees that encourages them to share their feedback and ideas. That way when you make a decision about either your Christmas party or other social events during the year, you know that you’re catering to their needs and they’re going to be more invested and comfortable with participating.
When you make a decision to create an inclusive workplace that needs to go across every facet of the business. That means everything from recruitment to parties need to embed inclusivity at the heart of what you do.
Christmas parties aren’t always the most inclusive affair. But with a few small tweaks and adjustments you can create a social event which allows all of your employees to come together in a way that suits them and meets their needs.
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