It’s the end of the year and many of us are looking forward to finally connecting in person again with our work friends and colleagues – some of whom we will be meeting for the first time.

Given that we have spent two years on virtual meetings is it any wonder that we have lost the art of communication, the little nuances that make connection so important. A glass of wine after work, a lunch to bring the team together – or even just putting up the Christmas tree together in the office is a chance to reconnect, have a chat and to start to rebuild positive organisational culture. But what about the end of year Christmas Party in 2021? A pressure cooker of COVID19 related angst, social anxiety and the need to catch up on the missed parties and get togethers, fuelled with alcohol, may create a potential environment for employees to lose their inhibitions, say the wrong things or behave in a way that puts themselves and others at risk. It is every employers nightmare, exposing them to claims of sexual harassment, bullying, discrimination and at its extreme sexual abuse allegations.

After almost 2 years of pandemic living, we’re facing a perfect storm of pent-up excitement and social demand to be socialising again in person. Mixed with a new sense of social anxiety and emotional fragility that comes from the continued uncertainty of the pandemic.  As humans, we don’t like uncertainty – it breeds anxiety, and we’ve had more than our fair share of it.  It can be difficult to adjust to the new normal when the new normal keeps changing.

Clarity+ Group’s Professor Jane Burns was interviewed by Neil Mitchel on 3AW this morning regarding what employers should be thinking about to ensure employee wellbeing at this year’s end of year celebrations.  Her view is that the end of year party is a great way to build social connection and team cohesion, but in the current environment that we’re in, it is wise to think about how the end of year party can foster great conversations and celebrate in a safe way.  Jane’s top tips include having parameters in place that make it easier for people to make the right choices.  This could include:

  • Having a Code of Conduct so people think about appropriate behaviour before the event;
  • Foster a Listen up, Speak up culture;
  • Giving staff taxi vouchers to ensure that they get home safely;
  • Having drink cards to limit alcohol consumption;
  • Considering family day events rather than the traditional night time party;
  • Have appointed wellbeing champions who can check in and see that people are going ok.

If your end of year event is going ahead in person, consider how a proactive and compassionate planning approach can reduce detriment to employee wellbeing and safety risk as well as protect your commercial and reputational risk. At Your Call, a brand of Clarity+ we can help you ensure you have an end of year function that keeps people safe, allows them to have fun – and reduces the potential of your company being held accountable for a party that gets out of control.