Matt Ephgrave, Managing Director at Just Eat for Business, offers advice on how to organise cancel-proof Christmas parties in the face of rising infection rates
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the importance of adaptability. The way we participated in modern life changed before our eyes – five day commutes were swiftly replaced with Zoom meetings and our local shop became the furthest destination we could travel to.
It is no wonder we were all looking forward to the incoming office Christmas party, a taste of the pre-pandemic life we have all missed. However, with rising infection rates and the potential spread of a new variant, many companies including Google and Facebook have decided to cancel.
For the parties still going ahead, organisers should be sensitive to the differing needs of their employees. Whilst some may feel confident attending an in-person meet, others may choose to celebrate with the team from the comfort of their own home.
Here are some tips on how to create an inclusive, cancel-proof Christmas party that can be enjoyed by all, no matter where they’re based.
1. Anticipate technology failures to keep the event running seamlessly
Technology blunders are on the most part unavoidable, and after nearly two years of working online most people can empathise with the occasional technical mishap. However, there are a few key provisions that should always be prioritised when organising a hybrid event. The first being a strong internet connection and a top quality video platform, such as Zoom or Google Meet. After all, buffering and pausing doesn’t make for a fun party.
The second is creating a shared musical experience. A Christmas party isn’t the same without festive tunes, and ensuring virtual attendees have access to the same Spotify playlist as the office allows for everybody to enjoy the festivities together.
2. Plan activities that bring everyone together, no matter where they are celebrating
Incorporating live, in-person elements with virtual ones need not be tricky, think cupcake decorating, cocktail making, or quizzes. Shared experiences are the essence of hybrid Christmas parties, so organisers should prioritise an activity that the entire team can get involved in.
Allocating time for in-person guests to catch up over mulled wine and simply enjoy each other’s company will help keep attendees engaged during the virtual aspects of the evening. Organisers should make sure those at home aren’t left to their own devices by arranging a Zoom pub quiz or breaks for guests to order their food of choice.
3. Establish a dress code
Whilst cosy jumpers and tracksuit bottoms may be the unofficial uniform for those working from home, guests should be encouraged to dress up for the occasion in order to create a fluid party experience from those mingling in real life to those behind their screens. After all, it has been scientifically proven that getting dressed into your favourite party dress is sure to lift your spirits.
4. Ensure hybrid guests are treated to a shared meal experience
Where possible, the hybrid party should mirror the traditional in-person experience. Replicating the shared meal experience is a good start – if the office is being treated to take away pizza, WFH staff could be sent an allowance to simultaneously order food from their favourite local italian joint.
5. Ask office attendees to co-operate with some Covid safety rules
Encouraging feelings of ease beforehand is a good starting point when organising a cancel-proof event. Organisers should implement safety guidelines such as proof of a negative test result in order to create a safe and considered environment. It is important to let your staff know that the event is being organised with their health and safety in mind – a simple reassurance could be the make or break for people choosing to opt out of the party.
6. Keep it short and sweet
Knowing when to call it quits on the virtual party is important for WFH guests. After all, we have all experienced Zoom fatigue at one point or another during the pandemic. Don’t forget to offer your virtual guests goodie bags for when they log off, ideally containing identical contents to the ones offered at the venue.
After a difficult eighteen months, this year’s Christmas party is perhaps needed more than ever. Companies looking to treat their staff to a celebration for all their hard work and achievements throughout the year shouldn’t be dismayed by the prospects of a hybrid party, as long as it is organised with these six key tips kept in mind there is no doubt it will be a huge success.