Tisn’t the season: office Christmas party in decline

Employees are RSVPing ‘no’ to this year’s Christmas party, as the rise in remote work sullies festive cheer.

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Helena Young

Re-cork the prosecco and shut away the photocopier. New research shows that half of UK employees are planning to avoid the work Christmas party this winter, as the popularity of flexible working sees staff put off by in-person work events.

In a survey by recruitment firm, Walters People 48% of respondents said they’d put away the sequin dress for a night in. Meanwhile, almost two fifths stated it would be ‘too much effort’ to attend a festive event this year.

Janine Blacksley, Director of Walters People UK comments: “The end-of-year party has always been an important diary entry in the professional calendar [but] this year it feels like there has been a tide-change.

“Our poll results show that the main deterrents echo a fatigue in professionals to make the effort or foot the costs associated.”

Home for the holidays

The rise in at-home work policies mean that face-to-face interactions have become less common at work. Because of this, the UK’s employee engagement rate has fallen dramatically.

Walter People’s research suggests that work socials have now gone the same way as in-person meetings and desk plants, as employees seek out remote working benefits like improved work-life balance.

As a result, less than a third (32%) of respondents stated their workplace party was going to be a ‘big one’ this year. Even those attending the event are subdued. One fifth of respondents said they would go just to ‘show their face’.

However, while the decision to stay at home might mean a longer lie-in for staff, there are also fears about how less social connection at work might impact teamwork within the workforce.

In a recent study by Slack, nearly a quarter of UK businesses recently identified a lack of connection and feelings of loneliness among staff as amongst the biggest challenges they currently face.

Festive spirits? No thanks

Walter People also finds that over a quarter of UK employees are planning to ’not drink at all’ at their office celebrations this year, as workplaces across the country increasingly embrace alcohol-free work events.

39% of respondents to the survey said they would stick to just one or two tipples at their office celebrations, compared to a fifth who are planning to go ‘all out’ (22%).

In comparison, almost 31% of employees are planning to stay entirely tee-total, swapping brandy for custard on this year’s Christmas pudding.

Cost is a factor here. During the cost of living crisis, hard-up staff are more likely to put their money towards personal spending. In fact, the same percentage (31%) of respondents say they would not be attending their work do because of the ‘cost associated’ with going.

Another point is the increased emphasis on inclusion at work. Awareness is growing around how boozy work functions can exclude colleagues if they don’t drink, causing more employers to turn the taps off and embrace sober socials.

Reining in the spending

It’s not just employees who are feeling the festive fatigue this year. After facing an unrelenting cascade of challenges in 2023, many UK businesses have embraced hybrid working as a life ring, not an employee perk.

As skyrocketing business rates and inflated commercial rent costs make offices too expensive to afford, many have downsized their office to avoid unfavourable outcomes such as redundancies.

Employers are now carrying this frugality into the festive period, by spending less on Crimbo. The Walters People research also found that 59% of workplaces are choosing to scale back celebrations, or even cancel them altogether, in order to cut costs.

Blacksley adds: “Our polls show a real change in attitudes towards how work Christmas parties could be carried out going forward – and potentially a permanent shift in workplace culture.

“Time will tell on whether this is a more fleeting change in light of what has been a globally economically difficult year.”

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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