It’s that time of year when organisations are planning how they will celebrate Christmas; decisions need to be made around timing, budget, invite list (are partners and kids invited — can we afford it?), and creating a mutually enjoyable affair that stands a chance of having a decent majority of staff having fun.
For most, the chance to let their hair down and have fun with the people whom they work with all day everyday is a welcome moment. Celebrating the year with all its highs and lows can be cathartic, as companies celebrate achievements over the last 12 months and look forward to the next chapter.
Kate Murray from Community Networks said that celebratory functions are really good for staff morale. “A Christmas party is a way to thank and acknowledge staff for all the work they do,” she said. “It’s a small thing that can go a long way to creating a good company culture. People want to feel valued so when management spends a few dollars on having fun, people tend to feel more loyal and more engaged with their employer.”
Christmas functions can vary hugely. For Mark Anderson from MA Building, the work ‘do’ is a three-day hunting and fishing extravaganza for all the boys. It’s been months in the planning and not cheap; but the weekend away is partly funded by staff contributions and partly from Anderson.
For Anna Thomas at Dance Wānaka, the timing is hard as the dance studio has their end-of-year recital which takes all their time and energy. So, the teaching staff meet for a casual drink and Thomas gifts her teachers with a voucher. “But we always have a lovely mid-year dinner when things aren’t so crazy,” she said.
For Lane Hocking from Universal Developments, there is no work function at all— not because he’s a scrooge but because virtually all his employees are actually consultants.
“We are doing gift packages for all employees and consultants… Most of my employees are consultants and they do their own thing within their companies.”
For Queenstown Airport Corporation, employees will enjoy a festive staff function. According to Sara Irvine from QAC, it’s a staff-only event as they host other events throughout the year where families are invited. However, management does stump up for the full cost of the function which Irvine said is important to show employees that they are valued.
Queenstown Lakes District Council, who employs 507 people, said “There are two main ways people celebrate Christmas at QLDC: individual departmental parties, and through the QLDC social club. The social club Christmas party is open to QLDC staff who have signed up to the club throughout the year. Departmental Christmas functions, however, cover all staff. QLDC contributes $25 a head for these.”
For Julie Ramsay from Findex, an accounting and business advisory firm, the annual function joins with their Queenstown and Alexandra teams. “Yes, the party is definitely a way that management values staff,” she said. “The Christmas function is always well received within the company. It’s nice to get together with other offices as everyone is so busy during the year so to put time aside and catch up with them is really nice.”
Ramsay said that Findex often starts the afternoon with a family friendly activity so that kids can come, before moving onto other activities. In the past there has been racing cars in Cromwell and jet-boat racing, followed by dinners where partners are also invited.
Murray said that one benefit to doing an activity together, as opposed to a meal, is that adventure and adrenaline can help people bond more. “Doing something like wire climbing, boating, fishing or whatever, is that people get out of their comfort zones and barriers can come down. And in that place, there is more authenticity and genuine connection,” she said.
“Employers should look at it as an investment because the pay-off of happy, connected staff is huge.”