The office party is a ghost of Christmas past

Four in 10 employees think that it would be irresponsible to host a Christmas party given the current Covid risks, according to research from Irishjobs.ie.

More than half of Irish workers will not have any form of Christmas party this December as Covid-19 hampers festive celebrations.

New research from recruitment site Irishjobs.ie among 2,610 employees in Ireland found that 42pc of workplaces will not host any form of Christmas party this year, with a further 10pc postponing their plans for a workplace Christmas event until Covid restrictions have been lifted.

“As we look towards 2021, early indications of successful Covid-19 vaccines help to remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel – and hopefully by this time next year we can all look forward to a well-deserved Christmas get together”

The research comes just as Ireland moves from Level 5 to Level 3 restrictions. Restaurants and pubs (with chefs) serving food are free to reopen from Friday 4 December. Wet pubs, nightclubs, discos and casinos remain closed under Level 3. Under the plans, hotel restaurants will also be open to non-residents from next Friday (4 December).

Businesses that can’t reopen are to receive a double payment of the government’s Covid Restrictions Support Scheme (CRSS) for a three-week period beginning 21 December. 

According to the research, 84pc of workplaces typically host a Christmas party for employees every year. However, only 14pc will host a party this festive season.

Of those who will host a Christmas workplace party, 9pc will host a virtual party and 3pc will have a party in the workplace under socially distanced guidelines. Just 2pc will hope to secure a booking in a restaurant or pub in line with Government guidelines.

A total of 26pc of employees do not know if their workplace will hold a Christmas party this year. While eight per cent say that they never host Christmas parties in work.

“Workplace socialising, whether organised or informal, has always played a vital role in any high functioning organisation,” said Orla Moran, CEO of Irishjobs.ie. “It allows colleagues to get to know each other outside of the traditional boundaries of job descriptions and deadlines, helps foster greater comradery and collaboration amongst staff, and typically goes hand in hand with a happier and more productive workplace.

“2020 has obviously been an exceptionally challenging year on this front. Professionals have been unable to enjoy the simple rituals of a Friday evening drink with their colleagues or catch up over a coffee in the office canteen. Without these social outlets, staff can quickly feel disconnected or isolated from their colleagues.

Socialising is an important part of the job

According to the research, almost eight in 10 employees consider workplace socialising to be an important aspect of their job.

However, when it comes to Christmas socialising this year, four in 10 employees think that it would be irresponsible to host a Christmas party given the current Covid risks. A total of 30pc think it would be more trouble than it is worth given current restrictions and risks.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, 94pc of workplaces held regular social events, with four in ten holding a social activity for employees at least once a quarter.

Throughout the pandemic, this has decreased significantly with 81pc of employees saying that they no longer have any workplace social activities.

For those who have continued with workplace events, the large majority of these events have been online, with only 10pc of employees stating that they’ve met with colleagues in person.

Respondents reported a very mixed experience of online social activities including Zoom calls, virtual quizzes and comedy shows with colleagues. According to the research;

  • 20pc of employees said they do not enjoy virtual workplace socialising
  • 17pc said they do enjoy virtual workplace socialising
  • 12pc said they enjoyed it at the beginning, but less so now
  • 50pc haven’t experienced a virtual workplace social event  

“In the early stages of the Covid-19 lockdown the novelty of working from home and video calls meant that there was at least an enthusiasm towards arranging after-work virtual quiz nights, drinks or even out of office chats,” said Moran.

“However, as lockdown restrictions have continued, the novelty of seeing faces on a screen has gradually worn off, making it much more difficult to create engaging workplace social events.

“As a result, it can be easy to neglect the social element of work both from an employer and an employee’s perspective – but what we must remember is the value and benefits that a simple get together can make in raising motivation and boosting morale amongst a team.

“This is particularly important as we approach the Christmas period. Workplace Christmas parties have always served as an important fixture in the professional calendar.  Unfortunately, this year, the traditional Christmas party is no longer a viable option due to Covid restrictions.    

“However, it is important that we continue to look for creative ways to overcome these practical challenges.  Whether it is a virtual after work event, or a get together in a public space once Government guidelines allow, a conscious effort should be made to ensure that there is dedicated time allocated for workplace socialising in the weeks ahead to help boost morale and recognise the hard work and resilience of employees at the close of a uniquely challenging year.

“As we look towards 2021, early indications of successful Covid-19 vaccines help to remind us of the light at the end of the tunnel – and hopefully by this time next year we can all look forward to a well-deserved Christmas get together,” Moran said.

By John Kennedy (john.kennedy3@boi.com)

Published: 30 November, 2020