There’s no arguing that it’s been a tough year for business. Firms of all sizes have found themselves tightening their belts just to make it to the end of the year, despite employees working harder than ever. No doubt your staff have been making an extra effort to keep clients happy and get key projects finished, so – if you want to keep them next year – it’s important to give recognition and rewards, no matter how much you’re feeling the pinch.
Office Christmas parties are a well-established tradition and a great morale boost. The downside is, costs can easily escalate and with the average Christmas party in Central London now costing employers £90 per head, it’s easy to see why a festive event might be one of the first things to go when money is tight. Rather than cancel the celebrations altogether, why not hold the celebrations at your workplace instead of a third-party venue? This gives you much more control over the guests, catering and general ambience in ways that can save you – and your staff – a fair bit of money without seeming like a Scrooge.
If you can afford to splash out on one area of the staff party, decorating your office should be it. The less your staff recognise it as the same place they work in every day, the more relaxed and enthusiastic they will feel while they celebrate together. Complete venue transformation happens in two steps. Firstly, work out what’s the largest possible space you can use to host the event. Do you have an open-plan office or a large meeting room that would be suitable? Wherever this area is, it needs to be cleared of all work-related paraphernalia – you can’t party if you’re worried about knocking monitors off of desks!
The second part is to get decorating. Festive decorations, lighting and comfortable seating are essential. If you’re trying to keep it classy despite not holding your party at a designated venue, it’s really worth spending a lot of time and effort on the way it looks. You can actually find companies that specialise in turning functional spaces into breath-taking event venues. It might be more of an investment than doing it yourself, but it will still cost less than hiring a separate venue and you’re guaranteed to forget that you’re at your workplace at all.
Keeping catering costs down is one of the most challenging parts of organising any event, but it’s particularly so over the festive period when people are expecting to indulge. Certain cuisines and dining styles lend themselves to cost-effective catering more than others. For example, a buffet of Mexican or Indian food will typically stretch further and end up cheaper than a three-course Italian or French meal.
Be careful not to over-order, erring slightly on the side of caution to prevent mis-spent budget from going in the bin at the end of the night. The same thing goes for drinks – you might want bespoke cocktails and an open bar, but most of the time your staff will be grateful for a couple of free bottles of beer and a bit of table wine. You can find more tips for cost-effective staff catering on this website.
Do you suspect your employees are feeling the pinch in their wallets as much as your company is? Then make it clear that you don’t expect them to buy a new dress or shirt for your office do. You can simply encourage them to wear something they already own or set your own, simpler dress-code. ‘Ugly holiday jumper’ days have really taken off in recent years (there’s even a National Ugly Christmas Sweater Day), or you might just be happy to ask your staff to come in casual clothes.
A number of firms still choose to invite their employees to bring a partner or plus one to the Christmas party. Needless to say, if you’re trying to manage your costs, this is a bad idea. The good news is that it’s gradually becoming more common for staff dos to be about connecting with each other as colleagues, so not extending an offer for additional guests shouldn’t seem too unusual. Just keep in mind that you should warn your teams as early as possible that it’s a company-only event, particularly if partners have been invited in the past.
Keep your staff in the loop
Chances are, your staff will already have noticed that money is tight. If you’re aiming to stick to a modest budget then there is no point trying to hide it from them. Demonstrate that you are still trying to prioritise their end-of-year reward by keeping them informed and asking them directly where they’d like any Christmas party allowance to be spent.