Experts in the Media

Karen Maher – Kochie’s Business Builders

Founder of SmartCulture®

How to avoid the office Christmas party cringe.

Look out. It’s officially party season. Avoid the missteps and post-party cringe with these five simple tips from workplace health and safety expert Karen Maher.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I love having fun. So the very last thing I will ever say to a client is to stop their Christmas party due to risk of things going wrong.

It’s a sad day when your people can’t be rewarded and have a good time together. In fact, I usually say the opposite, make sure you encourage your people to get together and celebrate your company milestones.

So, let’s keep the party, but ditch the lack of planning. These are my top tips to be prepared for the office Christmas party.

5 tips to make your Christmas party safe and fun

1. Be smart about it.

Don’t just plonk your people in a fun bar or restaurant and hope for the best. Make sure the venue is appropriate for the function. Ask yourself, is it safe? For example, steer clear from venues where it’s hard to keep an eye on everyone (for example, venues with lots of small secluded rooms or areas), check the venue upholds RSA requirements and be clear that this will be very much expected on the day/night. Do they serve food? It’s a great idea to do a mini-risk assessment, and visit to the venue. It’s not OTT, it’s smart.

2. Nominate some sober buddies

Make sure there’s a few sober people present to supervise your event, and work out how many you need in ratio to your people. This is a big one. The legal obligations to keep people safe and prevent harassment, bullying and discrimination does not end outside the four walls of your business. It’s incredible how much of a difference a few sets of sober eyes can have in keeping everyone out of harm’s way. Sober eyes can minimise harm in many ways… for example getting Jade some more water or food if she’s too intoxicated, making sure silly arguments don’t start or continue to escalate, making sure Dave gets home okay if he needs to leave in a rush. Sober eyes are your best friend at a work Christmas function.

3. Keep serving food and water

We’ve all been there, we get excited, drink too fast, don’t eat enough, and it never ends well. Make sure there is plenty of water and hearty food on offer throughout the function.

4. Yes, send the reminder

We are forever being warned by our Work Health and Safety regulators about the need to ingrain our policies, values and expectations into our culture. I’ve worked on hundreds of cases in this area and seen so many awful outcomes due to poor decisions made by people during poorly planned Christmas events.

A strong message from the boss before these events in silly season is important (and prudent). Remind people of the expectations of good behaviour in line with your policies and that yes, consequences will follow if expectations are not met. Set the bar high, and be clear about it. An additional reminder to your leaders is also a great idea. This helps to instil the importance of proactive and safe leadership and reminds leaders that they play a vital role in keeping everyone safe too.

5. Be safe, but enjoy yourself

By all means, follow the rules and be safe, but please make sure that you also eat, drink and be merry. Christmas is a time for connection and comradery, and if you plan and prepare, it really can be the most wonderful time of the year.