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Are Work Parties a Good or Bad Idea?

Work parties- Are they good or bad?
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Work parties are often seen as an important part of office culture. Employers can often feel pressured to provide office parties for their employees every so often in an attempt to show employees appreciation and encourage employees to get to know each other.

But do employees even enjoy work parties? The answers are often quite polarising, with employees either usually loving or hating these types of parties. Whether they love or hate these parties often has to do with how they feel about their colleagues. While work parties do have their potential benefits, it is often not a good idea to force employees to mingle with one another.

With the festive season just around the corner, we thought we’d discuss some of the ins and outs of work parties so that you are better prepared to make decisions regarding this age-old office tradition.

Potential benefits of work parties

Work parties wouldn’t have been able to maintain their popularity for so many years if there weren’t at least some benefits involved, right? Some of the potential upsides to work parties include:

Show your employees you appreciate them

Throwing a work party is a lot of effort and expense. If you provide your employees with a wonderful experience, they are bound to appreciate it. Showing your employees that you appreciate their contribution to your company is a great way to up employee morale and increase employee retention. That being said, work parties are definitely not the only way to show your employees that you appreciate them.

Allow everyone to relax and have fun

The workplace environment can be very stressful. A work party can be a wonderful stress-reliever and provide an opportunity for your employees to relax and have fun. Who knows? Perhaps your employees do not have much of a social life, and a work party is something that they really look forward to on their social calendar.

Employees develop interpersonal relationships

While it’s never a good idea to get too involved in your employees’ personal lives, you should take an interest in getting to know them a little better. Work parties are a great way for your employees to get to know each other, as well as get to know people in other departments, as well as you, the employer, and management.

Improve motivation

After having thrown a work party, employees may feel a spike in motivation. Any sort of recreational activity allows employees to de-stress and regain the strength that they need to tackle challenges in the workplace.

When are work parties most likely to work?

Work parties are most likely to be a positive experience when you have a close-knit team that you know enjoys each other’s company and would appreciate the opportunity to have fun together and get to know each other better. Work parties are also most likely to work when they have been carefully planned, and the employees’ wants and needs have been taken into careful consideration.

Tips for if you plan to throw a work party

If you are planning to throw a work party and want it to be as successful as possible, there are a few things that you should definitely take into consideration. Simply planning the party that you would most enjoy is not enough. A few tips include:

Cater for everyone

Do you have employees with specific dietary requirements? Well, you should definitely find out and ensure the food and drinks that you provide are catered towards all of your employees and not just the majority of them. It would be terrible for someone to go hungry just because you forgot to order vegetarian options or something of the like.

You should also be sensitive to employees’ religious and cultural backgrounds and ensure that the activities cater to all.

Keep it short and sweet

The longer that a work party draws on for, the more likely it is for employees to become bored, frustrated, or for drama to ensue. It is better to leave employees wanting more. Also, remember that employees have other commitments, as well as friends and family that they may want to see around this holiday season, so keep work parties short, sweet, and to the point.

Make it worth your employees’ time

If a work party is held outside of working hours, remember that you are actually taking up your employees’ free time, so make it worth their while! By this, we mean that your work party should be of high quality. This means delicious food, a good atmosphere, a fun, unique experience, and perhaps some exciting entertainment to make their evening memorable.

Choose a convenient location

If the work party is not held on your business premises, think about the location that you choose. It should be a convenient location that all can travel to easily. If the location is far out of the way, you may want to look at providing transport for the event. You do not want your employees to have to go out of their way or spend an unnecessary amount on transport just to attend a work party.

Do not make it obligatory

Understand that your employees have a life outside of work. They may have other weekend and evening commitments that you know nothing about. Or they may not want to attend a work function where they have to mingle and make small talk with their colleagues. This is why attendance should be encouraged, to make everyone feel welcome, but not obligatory.

Give out awards

One of the biggest advantages of throwing work parties is showing your appreciation for your employees. To drive this home further, you could always hand out special awards at your work party. These could be serious or simply fun and silly.

Types of work parties

Most people think of work parties as a classic dinner and drinks, but there are a lot of other ideas that you could make use of for a work party, including:

  • A river cruise
  • Paintball
  • Live music
  • A pottery class
  • Dance class
  • Comedy show

The opportunities are truly endless, but you should have a close look at your employees and their interests, as well as the options in your local area, before deciding upon an option that all of your employees would enjoy.

Potential downfalls of work parties

Now we come to the downfalls. Read these downfalls carefully as some of them can have quite serious implications for both you and your employees.

Certain people feel excluded

Marginalised groups often feel excluded and outcasted at office parties where they don’t fit in with the rest of the group. This can have a truly detrimental effect on morale and employee retention. While you can do your best to cater for all of your employees, there is often not much that you can do when it comes to group dynamics and certain people feeling excluded.

Employees feel obliged to attend even if they don’t want to

Employees that feel that they may be excluded, or employees that simply do not enjoy socialising, may feel obligated to attend work parties even if they really do not want to attend. This can lead to feelings of frustration and irritation with their job in general, as well as with their employer and colleagues.

An opportunity for bickering and gossip

If there is one thing that you want to avoid, it is workplace drama. And unfortunately, work parties can be breeding grounds for gossiping, bickering, and other forms of drama. Employees may feel that they can speak more freely in a party environment than they could in the workplace, and this may lead to disrespect and downright rudeness. There is not much you can do to prevent this sort of thing from happening, but a fight or situation that happens at a work party could leave a bad taste in employees’ mouths for years to come.

The question of alcohol

If you do not include alcohol at your work party, there are most likely going to be those who are not happy, and if you do include alcohol, it could lead to even more drama, employees drinking too much, and other issues. The question of alcohol is a big one that you will need to think about carefully if you plan to host a work party.

Expense

A work party can be quite a hefty company expense. While it can be worth it if everything goes according to plan, you need to decide if this is the best way to reward employees with the budget that you have available to you.

To give employees plus 1s or not

Allowing employees to bring their spouse or even entire family along can make the experience a lot more enjoyable and convenient for certain employees. But employees who do not have someone to bring along could feel very lonely and sad during an event that is very happy for others. Having extra mouths to feed could also jack up the expenses, and more personalities could mean more drama. So it is important to think very carefully before allowing employees to bring along loved ones.

When work parties are most unlikely to work

Work parties are least likely to be a success if you have a large, diverse group of employees that already struggle to get along. If there are clicks and marginalised groups, you could be in for some trouble if you do not do your best to cater for all.

Alternatives to office parties

Like we have already mentioned, throwing a work party is definitely not the only way to show your appreciation for your employees. If you feel that a work party is more trouble than what it is worth, you may want to look into the following alternatives:

Give employees the day off

When the festive season rolls around, everyone appreciates having a little extra time to spend with their loved ones. Granting your employees an extra day off could be more beneficial to them and less stressful for you than it would be to throw a work party.

Give employees Christmas hampers

Giving employees Christmas gifts or hampers shows that you have a bit of holiday spirit without the drama and downfalls involved with work parties. You could make each hamper specific to the employee and their particular tastes or give a general hamper to everyone to ward off jealousy and comparison.

Christmas bonus

We all know that money talks. Instead of spending a large amount of money on a work party, why not divide this money up amongst your employees and grant it to them as a 13th cheque or end-of-year bonus? No one is going to complain about a little extra spending money.

Have a very short end-of-year lunch at the office

This is a great compromise as it can be seen as somewhat of a work party as food and even entertainment could be provided, but there is less opportunity to go astray as it will be held within the usual work environment and it will be kept short and sweet.

Speak to your employees

Whether office parties are good or bad is very company-dependent. And it also depends a lot on your employees and their interpersonal dynamics. Before you decide to throw a work party, it would be a good idea to speak to your employees and determine whether a party would be something that they’d actually appreciate or not. You could put it down to an anonymous vote or accept ideas from employees.

It is important that you really take your employees’ feelings toward this into consideration. As an employer, it is your responsibility to do what is best for your employees as well as the company. While there may be some backlash if you decide to cancel the yearly work party, you may save yourself a lot of drama in the long run, and if you provide some sort of monetary recognition instead of a party, there are likely to be very few complaints.

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