By Liz Taylor, CEO and Business Leader, Liz Taylor Consultancy
Christmas is fast approaching and it’s true that this year has been very different for all the office party planners out there.
So, Liz Taylor CEO and Business Leader at Liz Taylor Consultancy, shares her advice on how to recognise staff differently this Christmas…
“In talking to an audience of PAs, the most organised people in business, I know the lack of ability to plan ahead will have been a huge source of frustration. For me too. I am sure you will have asked yourself if the company Christmas celebrations can happen at all. I’m here to tell you – they can.
Usually the Christmas ‘do’ would be all sewn up by now, with only the finer details and reminders to be sent. But with a constantly changing tier system and rules that are open to interpretation, what should the office Christmas party look like this year?
Well of course it depends on your tier, and for those who are permitted to apply the rule of six outdoors, smaller team parties could be the way forward. Especially if it’s a lazy, boozy brunch in one of the fairy light clad tepee tents or igloos at local pubs and restaurants that have popped up all over the UK. Do it during work hours as an extra treat and to help with the childcare issues that could have arisen.
We’ve already been asked to plan a small, outdoor restaurant setting for one company. Using the gardens around their head office, we are establishing small fine dining ‘pods’ which allow six people to meet for a decadent lunch matched with fine wines. Office teams will take turns using the space – with all COVID-19-safe cleaning between sittings in place of course!
You could book them individual spa or pamper package to enjoy when suits. Tickets to a sports event. Or a family pass to a local attraction. A chance to relax and unwind in 2021 will generally be welcomed!
The updated guidelines from the Government also now say that virtual parties are included in the annual party exemption and where this isn’t possible, small gifts can be given. It offers greater flexibility on how this year’s celebrations can be delivered.
Personally, and I don’t mean to offend, but after the year we’ve had, for me, a Zoom quiz just won’t cut it as the main way of rewarding employees this year. But neither will a party that breaks the rules.
So, what are the alternatives? It depends how many employees you have, but one solution is to use ‘teasers’. Send gifts out to everyone to help them feel connected with the company and the season. So, one day you may send a little mince pie in a branded box, then send out a small bottle of mulled wine or a mini bottle of prosecco a day later. Get big baubles embossed with the employee’s name or simple wrapped gingerbread iced with the team names. Keep sending these over a few days, so that you create a sense of anticipation. Smaller, regular gifts are so much more fun that just one present. By the end of the gifting week, the team member has a festively eclectic box of gifts and treats that the company has sent to them. Thoughtful touches that make people feel appreciated.
Then, finally, I would get the money that you would have used for the party and give it to the staff. Everyone is short of cash and it’s been a challenging year. So, if it’s £25, £50, £100, whatever, just send it in vouchers or add it into their salary. Your team will appreciate the gesture.
If a virtual celebration is preferred, and some love it, my appeal is to invest in making is stand out. Arrange for the team’s favourite restaurant to deliver dinner, even if its fish and chips in a branded box! Send prosecco and canape gifts for the team to enjoy as you virtually ‘party’. Don’t force the fun though. Let professionals do the work here. Hire a studio where you can film live entertainment and beam it into the homes of your zoom colleagues. Afterwards, send the team the party playlist to keep. And please, please – don’t make it drag on. Keep the celebration to a couple of hours. Short and sweet is best in the world of virtual celebrations!
The final option, and one that I’m hoping will be a solution, is to set your eyes on a summer celebration and communicate that now. Yes, there is still uncertainty on live events in the summer. I’m currently planning events for the season and hand on heart, I hope they’ll be able to go ahead. With vaccine news, we certainly have a good chance that a type of live social event can take place, even if there are still some restrictions in place. None of us really know for sure however, so make sure there is a flexible cancellation policy for anything you book. Right now, everybody needs that little bit of Christmas in them and something to look forward to – so if you do consider this – you need to a Save The Date now. I would print it on the label of a bottle of fizz and mail this to the team. Nothing like a glass of bubbly to get the party started!”