“Time” for the office party?

Guest Blog from Steve Herbert, Head of Benefits Strategy at Jelf Employee Benefits


You don’t need me to tell you that we are about to enter the festive season, and across the nation the plans for the annual office shindig will no doubt be in an advanced state of preparation.


So I’m going to be deliberately provocative now.  Without wishing to be a party-pooper, I wonder why the nation continues to persist with this quaint – yet often unloved – workplace tradition?




I suspect many will immediately advance the counter-opinion that it’s an opportunity to thank the workers for all they have done, and to bond the team together for another year.  Point taken of course, but I think there is a more valid question to consider here;


“Do your workers actually want or appreciate the annual office party?”


A recent survey* may suggests otherwise.


According to the research more than 9 in 10 employees do not value company outings.  Whilst I accept that this is not specific to the office Christmas party, it nevertheless suggests a major culture change amongst workers when it comes to out-of-hours “bonding” activities.


The continued existence of such gatherings probably owes much to the age of today’s generation of senior management and decision makers.  Those in such positions are likely to have entered the workplace some years ago, often before social-media took off and in a world that was much more work-centric than it is today.  The office party was an absolute given in the 1980s and 1990s – yet today is looking increasingly dated.


Which takes me to a second key question;


“Do office parties actually do more harm than good?”


I doubt that many people can actually point to the office party as a time when their careers have actively progressed, no matter how well behaved they remained.  The flip-side of that coin is that many of us will recall where the annual opportunity for embarrassment harmed the reputation and/or career-prospect of an individual with his or her co-workers.


And then there are the disenfranchised.  Remote workers will be unable to attend, those that have to drive unable to drink, and those with caring duties for children or elderly relatives will have to face a difficult choice between paying for additional caring services or simply turning down the invitation.


And those that can’t – or just don’t want to – attend often face whispers about their commitment or camaraderie with their peer group as well.


I could go on, but fear for the social media slating I will no doubt take if I do so.  So I would like to simply end as follows:


To me the office party feels like a historical hangover – and of course often leaves many employees with a very real hangover the following working day as well.


So is it perhaps time to call time on the office party?


Whether you are a party goer or not, my compliments and best wishes of the season to you all.




*   ”Why your workforce isn’t working”; Sage People; October 2017

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