Pitfalls to avoid as holiday season work parties return

Sunira Chaudhri

Sunira Chaudhri

Toronto Employment Lawyer

Holiday parties can, however, be a hotbed for workplace problems without some active planning and forethought. This is especially the case this year when parties have been reintroduced by many companies for the first time after the pandemic.

My law firm celebrated the holiday season with our own in-person holiday party last week.

 

It was great to shut down the office for the afternoon, lunch at Tutti Matti and then take up some mini golf in the downtown core. While our team collaborates in the office every day, it was simply tremendous to step away from the office to connect with our colleagues and celebrate the end of a great year.

 

Holiday parties can, however, be a hotbed for workplace problems without some active planning and forethought. This is especially the case this year when parties have been reintroduced by many companies for the first time after the pandemic.

 

Where employers have traditionally had to be mindful of the appropriateness of workplace party activities, location and alcohol intake, added to that is the consideration that your workplace party may live online well after the lights turn on.

 

Employees’ use of social media during a holiday party can set the tone for how your organization is perceived.

 

Last year I wrote about a workplace party at the Charley Victoria’s All Day Apres bar at Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia. Party goers were caught on video dancing maskless during a COVID lockdown. After the video went viral, the company moved to terminate employees who violated public health regulations.

 

Of course, the viral video content was damaging to the ski resort as offending employee conduct often is.

 

Here are some tips for employer and employees to follow this holiday season if attending a party:

 

Alcohol Intake — Employers should be mindful of alcohol consumption at holiday parties. To be extra careful, consider issuing two “drink tickets” per employee to help moderate consumption. Employees too should be cautious about alcohol intake. Even though you’re off the clock, being under the influence could lead to inappropriate behaviour and possible workplace discipline.

 

Transport — If employees are free to imbibe alcohol at your holiday party, consider offering to cover the cost of a taxi or Uber home or to the nearest train station. This helps ensure employees are leaving their cars at home.

 

Social Media — Employees and employers should give extra thought to posting photos and videos during a holiday party. Unmoderated content online could be unflattering and impact your company’s brand.

 

Management Conduct — It’s always best for management to consider a workplace outing as an extension of their office duties. Employers should engage in a quick refresher with management in advance of a holiday company outing. Managers are still in positions of power at holiday parties and should be careful, in particular, about relaxing protocol during a social outing.

 

With much of the world still remote or hybrid, in-person gatherings during the holiday season can do a lot to improve morale and retention at your organization. Using this time to thank employees for their hard work and dedication can pay off in dividends.

 

As we continue to be plagued by various strains of the flu, RSV and COVID, some employees may have to opt out of an in-person gathering. Find another way to help them celebrate the holiday season (like ordering takeout).

 

Use these tips to avoid common pitfalls and instead, view your holiday party as an opportunity to grow relationships and build bonds.

 

Have a workplace issue? Maybe I can help! Email me at sunira@worklylaw.com and your question may be featured in a future column.

 

The content of this article is general information only and is not legal advice.

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