It feels like we’ve only just come to the end of a long summer but the Christmas adverts have already started to crop up. With the festive period just two months away, there is one key event that many of us look forward to and dread in equal measure – the office Christmas party.

As a staple of British workplace culture, the Christmas party is the highlight of the working year for many employees but 54% of workers have said that they don’t look forward to the festivities. 7% even do their best to leave as early as possible or avoid it entirely.

Bringing the Team Together

The Christmas party is an ideal opportunity for employers to reward their workers and bring people together. However, we must consider how to best approach those employees who do not look forward to the event.

Many workers feel pressured to attend the party and will go simply to avoid being labelled as miserable. Many are worried about embarrassing themselves, with common fears including feeling nervous about dancing, spilling drinks or being unwell after drinking too much.

These are not abstract worries as many UK employees admit to regretting their actions the following day. Mistakes made during the festive season can have lasting negative effects on employee and employer relationships. Nearly half (40%) of HR workers have even considered handing in their notice the day after the party.

The Great Escape

The majority of employee concerns surrounding Christmas parties are linked to drinking culture. This means it’s well worth employers considering healthier, less divisive alternatives to the classic festive shindig. While most employers don’t even ask their team how they want to celebrate, there are far more inclusive ways of team-bonding during the festive period especially given the growing focus on wellness and healthy working environments.

We love the idea of adding a bit of intrigue to the celebrations. One way would be to hire an escape room where colleagues team up to solve puzzles. Problem-solving tasks are a fun way for employees to accept a challenge and work together while having a laugh in a relaxed environment.

If an escape room isn’t your thing, a more casual competitive activity could be the way forward. Table tennis is always a popular choice. If employees still want to let off a bit of steam at the end of the night, organise an after-party. That way, there’s an option for those who want to get involved but no one needs to feel pressured into attending or shamed about going home early.

Travel to Wonderland

For a party atmosphere without the pressure, a team trip to Winter Wonderland gives everyone a chance to enjoy the festive season in their own way with food, drinks and rides all on offer. If you really want to ramp up the festive factor, you could also create your own wonderland-style event. Rent out a venue, install a giant Christmas tree, get some crackers, and set up a fake snow machine. This is a lovely way to celebrate and make the evening into something special without any pressure.

For those companies on a shoestring budget, forgo the traditional party. Instead, ask everyone to wear a Christmas themed jumper then do a simple meal out at a local restaurant. That way, the focus will be on food and fun instead of partying into the early hours.

A New Type of Charity

Christmas is a time for giving and some companies like to organise a workplace Secret Santa. But have you considered incorporating a charity element into your office Christmas?

Hold a charity raffle or ask employees to make a small donation when accepting their attendance at the party. You could go one step further and invite employees to volunteer at a soup kitchen or homeless shelter or ask the team to work together to gather and create gifts for children in need, as one company did by making and wrapping teddy bears together with children’s books. This encourages workers to think more creatively together whilst working towards a common good cause.

A Christmas to Remember

We’re not saying that any of the above should (or could) replace the traditional office Christmas party. After all, this is a time-bound tradition that many employees look forward to. Sometimes a bit of drinking, eating, and dancing is just what the doctor ordered.

But if you want to make your Christmas celebrations more meaningful and memorable, it may be an idea to try something different. With 23% of employees admitting that they find the run-up to Christmas the most stressful time of year, anything you can do to minimise feelings of anxiety associated with the workplace is invaluable.

The best employers are those that take every opportunity to encourage and nurture team spirit and connectivity. It’s important to adopt a long-term view and make sure employees both feel valued. Your team should also understand that their emotional wellbeing is taken into account.

The annual Christmas do is one of the best opportunities to encourage your team to bond and grow together. It’s well worth taking a bit of time to work out how everybody can gain value and enjoyment from the occasion. This will ideally create a good impact and positive working environment in the short- and long-term.