Party on — or not
HOLIDAY CELEBRATIONS: Some people love it, but many people would rather avoid it. We’re talking about the office Christmas party, that minefield of potential missteps — especially if alcohol is involved. In some companies, the response is to scale down the celebrations, or even to skip them altogether.
“We certainly are seeing a movement toward alternatives to the traditional party,” says human resources consultant Cissy Pau of Clear HR Consulting in Vancouver. Pau told The Globe and Mail that many employees say they are so busy with home and family that a work event does not seem appealing. “Rather than being an enjoyable experience, it becomes an obligation or a chore.”
The Saskatchewan Research Council has not held a Christmas party for five years — and nobody seems to miss it. “We talked informally to employees to get feedback and in general, there were a lot other things going on at that time of year so there was not much interest in a formal party,” says Wanda Nyirfa, the SRC’s vice president of business ventures.
“Instead, we turned our attention to simpler, more business-focused but still fun events that take place throughout the year.” Individual departments do hold their own small gatherings, Nyirfa said.
Meanwhile, at the headquarters of the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) in Winnipeg, the emphasis is on giving to charities. APTN cancelled its corporate holiday celebration because fewer and fewer people were attending. “The issue for many staff members was that it conflicted with the kids and everything else,” explains APTN’s chief executive officer, Jean La Rose. “That’s why we moved to a weekday event during office hours so our staff doesn’t feel stressed about having to be there.”
"We moved to a weekday event during office hours to reduce stress." Jean La Rose
The revised party is a lunch served by management, much to the amusement of the staff. “They start ribbing us about our cooking weeks in advance,” La Rose comments. The staff of 200 also enjoys contributing to disadvantaged people in the community. “We usually select two indigenous families in need in the Winnipeg area, often a single parent with a few children, to which we provide a food hamper and gifts,” La Rose says.
Still, not every company feels the need to eliminate the corporate party. Diamond Schmitt Architects in Toronto does not have a sit-down dinner, but there is a buffet and a band as well as an open bar, with taxis provided to make sure staff get home safely. Attendance is always excellent, according to human resources manager Meagan Mallysh. “We’ve had years where people have come back from a business trip and literally just got off the plane and come to the party,” Mallysh says.