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Does my team really want a Christmas party?

Stuart Duff, head of development, and a partner at Pearn Kandola, discusses why Christmas parties should be a compulsory event


Does my team really want a Christmas party?

I remember reading a survey last year on what Christmas benefits employees would most like to receive from their employers.

A quarter (25%) of respondents had said that they would like to receive a Christmas bonus and a further 23% said that they would like a pay rise, while just 8% would like to attend a team meal out.

Surveys such as this tend to make the headlines most years, arguing that employees would prefer to receive a cash gift for Christmas than attend an office party. As a result, I’m sure that many business leaders will be wondering how best to approach the issue.

For most businesses, a Christmas party isn’t just a reward for work completed throughout the year. Encouraging staff to come together for a festive social event could also have value as a team-building exercise.

But, is a Christmas party more trouble than it’s worth? Are there more effective ways of motivating staff during the festive season?

Get to know your team

It’s certainly true that getting to know one another on a more personal level helps to build a sense of connection between team members, which reinforces team identity. But, simply bringing people together and calling them a team doesn’t make them one.

There needs to be a mutual sense of trust, support, cooperation and commitment. This will help employees build relationships as people, rather than purely through transactional work-based contact.

The informal setting of a Christmas party can help team members build stronger bonds, identify things they have in common, and understand each other’s point of view in a way that they wouldn’t in a formal meeting.

Does company size matter?

However, the benefit of a Christmas party to both the employer and their team may differ depending on the size of the company.

In large companies, the Christmas party is a source of pride. It’s an event that is anticipated throughout the year, which provides an opportunity for leaders to show their appreciation to their team.

It’s also a way of bringing people together, who might not have reason to spend time with or get to know one another on a day-to-day basis.

All of these factors can greatly help to increase a team’s brand loyalty, which, in turn, will impact their productivity within the office.

In a smaller company, teams spend a large amount of time together already, and so there may be less to gain by encouraging them to spend additional time with one another outside work.

Optional vs Compulsory?

My advice to any leaders that are planning a function for such an organisation is to make it an optional event.

Making an informal event compulsory removes the ability to demonstrate personal commitment or engagement. It also forces staff to socialise when they already do so on a daily basis, which can actually create splits within the team.

Alternatively, it could be more feasible to host smaller events throughout the year, as opposed to one lavish party or even a Christmas lunch within working hours.

To build strong, lasting bonds, let the team inform leaders of how they want to spend time with one another this Christmas.