Rethinking a Cherished Tradition

Dec 21, 2022

by James Moul

As 2022 draws to a close, many organizations are preparing to hold end-of-year or holiday parties for their staff. These gatherings can be great opportunities for companies to show their appreciation for their employees’ hard work, for staff to connect with each other socially in ways that build camaraderie and strengthen the company culture, and for organizations to acknowledge and participate in society-wide seasonal celebrations and mark the transition to a new year.

Before booking the venue and hiring caterers, however, you may want to pause for a moment and think about what it means to host a big corporate holiday party at the end of 2022.

Most of the business world currently has a “Hooray! The pandemic is over, and now we can get back to normal!” mindset. Yes, vaccinations and other safety protocols have mitigated the danger of COVID-19 enough to allow many workers to return to their offices. And yes, the supply-chain issues of the past two years seem to be finally fading away. In many ways it does seem like the crisis is over.

But even though safety and reliability have returned, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll ever be able to return to exactly how things were before the pandemic. Many people are still dealing with the effects of the pandemic: some lost people they loved, some have suffered financial hardship, and some are dealing with long-term health issues after having COVID-10 themselves. Also, because many employers are keeping (for now, at least) the remote or hybrid work arrangements that became widespread during the height of the pandemic, companies’ actual physical workplaces have been transformed—and with some organizations opting to keep everyone remote permanently, some shared physical workplaces have disappeared completely.

So what does this mean for end-of-year parties? Rather than blindly follow tradition, companies should consider whether those parties still hold value today. Given that the economy is teetering on the edge of recession, do organizations still want to spend a lot of money on such festivities? Would employees see this as an insensitive expenditure on the part of the company and prefer to get an end-of-year bonus instead? Can the company afford the expense? If a company does decide to have a party, what logistics need to be considered to ensure that remote and hybrid employees are included?

Ultimately, the best thing managers can do right now is to read the room. They should talk to their staff and see how they are feeling and get a sense of how employees might feel about attending a big corporate blowout party. It’s very possible that a company’s employees would welcome a chance to relax and socialize with each other in a festive setting. It’s also very possible that a company’s employees aren’t feeling ready to celebrate just yet or might feel resentful about such an event. By approaching the issue with transparency and sensitivity, managers will have more success in finding a solution that works best for their organizations.

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