Christmas is almost here and we've had a sleigh load of parcels arriving at the Carbon360 office that would make Santa proud.
In addition, everyone is utilising their lunch breaks in typical December fashion - with panicked online shopping!
Aside from the usual festive stresses, December is always a busy time of year for the HR department.
Here at Carbon360 HQ the team have completed their 360’s (with our own lovely software of course!) and are in the middle of conducting appraisal meetings. We have also just returned from the office Christmas party.
Conducting end of year appraisals as well as ensuring the office party runs smoothly are important, and potentially stressful, jobs for HR.
No doubt you have seen numerous articles about how to avoid the potential HR nightmares that office party antics can bring up.
It is obvious that the usual festive overindulgence and being out of the office environment can free up inhibitions and mean that staff can behave in a way that they would never do at work.
In addition, being in a completely different atmosphere can be stressful for some staff, and it is not uncommon for employees to feel a little nervous or unsure about the correct way to engage with their co-workers in a non-work environment.
However, the Christmas party can and should be a positive and enjoyable experience.
It can also improve employee engagement and boost company morale and loyalty. Staff who get along well are much more likely to work well together for the benefit of the company as a whole.
As it is so close to Christmas, we decided that we didn't want to simply give you a list of do’s and don’ts for the office party – there are so many of those articles available already (just Google HR and Christmas and you will find many, many articles about third party liability and behaving yourselves).
However, we thought instead we would tell you about our Christmas party, which all the staff thoroughly enjoyed.
We decided to do something a bit different this year and avoid the usual corporate party situations. We instead booked a lovely barn in Wales and our MD, who is a dad of three and a keen scout leader even drove some of the staff down in his scout bus!
We divided our employees into teams – decorating, cooking the Christmas dinner, cooking the breakfast and two entertainment teams - and headed off to the valleys.
The accommodation was lovely, all two and three bed rooms, with a lovely big farmhouse kitchen and two very cosy living rooms.
The accommodation really made everyone feel at home.
We settled in and the decorating team put up the tree and the Christmas dinner team started the preparations for our evening meal while the rest of the staff had a drink, chatted and played cards.
The pre-dinner entertainment was a game of dodge ball, with a big bag of fancy dress items to be worn by those who got hit, which put everyone in a suitably silly and relaxed mood and really involved everyone.
Before dinner, our MD gave a short speech thanking everyone for all their hard work over the last year, which made all the staff feel both valued and included.
The dinner team prepared a lovely meal, and we exchanged our secret Santa gifts before the evening’s entertainment (in the style of a Christmas-themed pub quiz) got underway. There was even a round of dancing with pedometers which got everyone laughing.
The rest of the evening was spent playing board games and chatting, and the informal setting meant the staff felt relaxed, comfortable and could really take the time to get to know each other.
The whole evening was very enjoyable, and everyone put in the effort to make sure all their colleagues felt included.
After breakfast, we all got the accommodation back in order, and the company paid for train tickets back to Bristol, so we all headed off together.
There was a real sense that we had bonded – of having really relaxed and got to know each other much better.
Having the party over a whole evening and morning meant that everyone felt at ease, and removed the pressure to make the most of the free alcohol by drinking too quickly as can so often happen!
As we all sat down and ate breakfast together, any of the worries about having spoken too freely that often come after work socials was dissipated. Everyone was completely free to enjoy themselves and genuinely relax. In this situation, the team exercises lost their ‘work’ feeling and simply became helping out friends.
Despite the informal setting, everyone behaved in a way that was respectful and inclusive, which really enforced our sense of being an important part of a close team.
We will definitely think about doing something similar in future – the whole experience was one of team building without the formality, and it is something that the staff have discussed and remembered very favourably since.
The Carbon360 team know how important it is to make sure your employees feel valued and included and to reinforce an open, honest and supportive company culture.
This kind of work socialising breaks down hierarchical barriers, encouraging managers and employees to work together on an even footing.
Arranging events like this shows that the management genuinely care about their staff, and that they are valued as people as well as workers.
And that is what good HR is all about; the human connection.
So if you are planning a staff Christmas Party, remember that it can be a great experience for everyone involved.
Be sensible, and make sure you chose something that will make everyone feel included, involved, at ease and proud to be an important part of the company they work for.