Lovewell’s logic: How appropriate are festive celebrations in 2020?

How is your organisation planning to celebrate the festive season this year? Do you feel marking the occasion is important for staff motivation and morale, or does it feel inappropriate to celebrate under current circumstances?

Over the past few weeks, here at Employee Benefits, we have received a number of press releases from organisations providing virtual alternatives to traditional in-person celebrations.

But are employees really expecting to celebrate this year? Research by Blackhawk Incentives, published in October, found that more than half (58%) of respondents were not expecting to receive a Christmas reward from their employer this year, while an additional 11% were unsure if they would receive a Christmas gift or reward.

A poll of 500 business leaders by homelessness social enterprise Beam, meanwhile, found that 28% were undecided about how to celebrate Christmas with colleagues this year. Among those that have begun to put plans in place, the most popular options were to hold a secret Santa (20%), order a takeaway for the team (17%), give employees an additional day off (15%), host remote celebrations such as a Zoom quiz (13%) or to hold a virtual movie night, such as a Netflix party (13%).

Several organisations we have heard from in recent weeks, however, have urged caution if employers are planning to facilitate Christmas celebrations, suggesting that participation should be voluntary for employees. While there is a valid argument that team or social events, be these virtual or otherwise, can be beneficial for staff motivation, morale and engagement, employers should also bear in mind that the festive season this year will look very different for many individuals.

As England prepares to come out of lockdown on 2 December and the tier restrictions that apply to each area are announced, individuals may well be experiencing increased anxiety, or concerns about continuing isolation if in a tier three area.

In addition, although prime minister Boris Johnson has announced that up to three households will be permitted to meet for five days over the Christmas period, this may mean many individuals are experiencing difficult decisions about which family members to spend time with.

Under normal circumstances, Christmas is often recognised as a stressful time of year, which can impact mental wellbeing. For some individuals, this may be magnified this year, particularly if they are concerned about experiencing loneliness or isolation from friends and family. Remaining in close communication with staff, and ensuring measures are in place to identify employees who may be finding the festive period difficult, therefore, are crucial if employers are to be able to help them to access the workplace support available where appropriate.

Organisations should also be mindful that many employees may also be experiencing financial concerns this year, be this as a direct result of their own organisation’s financial situation or that of a partner’s or other close family member.

So, while Christmas celebrations may well be on the agenda, albeit in a very different guise, ensuring measures are in place to ensure staff feel supported throughout what could be a difficult time for some is also crucial.

Debbie Lovewell-Tuck
Tweet: @DebbieLovewell