Do I really need to have an office Christmas party?

With Christmas approaching fast it means that the office Christmas party is nearly upon us. But does the office party give you feelings of dread? Is there an alternative?

David Quinn: BrightHR Social Media Manager

The office Christmas party seems to have become a bit of a tradition over the years, but is it seen positively or a negatively in your company? For some, it’s one of the highlights of the work year, especially if it involves free food or a free bar. But for others, it’s their worst nightmare.

Listening to John from accounts is bad enough during the working day nevermind having to spend an evening with him. In fact, a survey from 2015 showed that 54% of employees do not look forward to the celebrations. So is the Christmas party the right thing for your company? Will you be seen as a Scrooge if you don't have one? What are the alternatives?


The problems with the office Christmas party

  • It’s not for everyone

You can’t please all of the people all of the time, and when it comes to the office Christmas party it's especially true. Some people won’t like the venue you have chosen, the food might not be to everyone's taste, some people may not be able to make a weekday evening due to childcare or other commitments, some people will have to leave early due to the location. Arranging the whole thing can be a tightrope walk. And that’s not taking into account age groups; younger people may tend to really look forward to a night out, whilst many of the older workers might not. So if you are looking for the Christmas do to bring the team together, a Christmas party might not be the answer.

  • Office romance

Working in close proximity means that love, lust or even increased feelings can become common. But it’s at the Christmas party where these feelings can often start to surface. It must be the combination of the holiday season mixed with festive spirit (or should that be festive spirits). According to a survey, 20% of staff admit to having kissed a colleague and 14% said they flirted with the boss at a work’s party. But what happens in the cold light of day on the first morning back? Will you have staff regretting their attempts at expressing their feelings and being knocked back? Employees experiencing the office walk of shame? The office rumour mill? New office relationships?

  • Bust ups

Just like romance, other feelings could also surface during the Christmas party. Putting together people who may rub each other up the wrong way, with alcohol, might not be the best idea. We have all heard stories about arguments, cross words and punch-ups that happen at Christmas parties and the repercussions for those employees. If you think this might be the case for your company and you’ll have to deal with the aftermath then maybe you might want to think of an alternative.

  • Post party absence

With the festive spirits flowing it’s almost inevitable that some of your employees will overdo it and it this will ultimately lead to some sore heads in the morning. If the Christmas party is on a work night you may want to be a bit more flexible with your start times the next day to allow people time to recover a little.

However, absence can be a problem, with those who may have gone a little overboard ringing in sick. How do you deal with this? Will it affect your business? The thought of the hassle of dealing with this kind of absence might just enough to put you off.

So what are the alternatives to the Christmas party?

  • The Christmas afternoon lunch

Instead of having a night out why not arrange a Christmas lunch out? Everyone one loves a good lunch and you’ll be sure to get a good turnout no matter what age or where they live. It means that people might be a bit more restrained when it comes to the drink, it may also avoid some problems we mentioned above and it can be a great way of bringing the team together. It also means people can get back home at the normal time if they need to and gives those who may want to go out after the opportunity to do so.

  • Bonus

A recent survey has shown that 90% of people would prefer a Christmas bonus to a party. So why not ditch the Christmas party altogether and use the money saved as a bit of a bonus for your staff? It may sound on the face of it that you are being a killjoy, but your staff may actually prefer this and have never had the courage to say. It’s well worth asking them.

  • Time off

The Christmas party can take time and can mean that your employees will be out of the office, especially if you do something during the afternoon. As your employees would have been out of the office anyway why not replace the Christmas party by giving employees an afternoon off? That way your employees can do what they like. If they want to use it as an unofficial party that's fine, alternatively they may just use it as an opportunity to do a bit of shopping.

  • Team building activity

Want to bring your team together? Why not switch the Christmas party for a team building exercise? You could go bowling, go-karting or even one of those escape room things. It’s a great way to get your staff together and build those team relationships, all without the potential negative connotations or effects of the Christmas party.  

  • Christmas day in the office

Why not substitute the party for a Christmas day in the office. Set a Christmas jumper dress code, organise a festive lunch or festive nibbles, arrange some festive activities and games, and put on the holiday playlist. There are plenty of options and there’s something for everyone to get involved in.


Ditch the Christmas party altogether?

I can hear the gasps now at the very thought of not having some sort of Christmas celebration, but hear us out on this one.

If how you socialise with your team is to take them for drinks once in a blue moon - or even worse you take them on a one-off festive adventure day where you force them to have fun then it will inevitably be staged… and ceremoniously not fun. The challenge is making sure the fun you have with colleagues isn’t a one off and isn’t therefore disconnected from your business. Many Christmas parties are good fun, but often this fun it is completely separate to the business - it’s somewhere else.

So why don’t we scrap the Christmas party and instead focus on increasing happiness and engagement in the office for the rest of the year?  


As you can see there are alternatives to the Christmas party, so don’t feel under pressure to have one. The best advice is to ask your employees what they want. You may find that the majority want one and that’s fine, but you may also find that another option might be better for you, your business and your employees.


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