· 3 min read · Features

Bah humbug? How to have a workplace Christmas party on a shoestring


The BBC has cancelled Christmas staff parties and the media has jumped on the story. There is a massive strength of the feeling on this very sensitive topic.

It does make you wonder how the BBC employees feel - along with others whose bosses have announced the slashing of end of year celebrations. If the recent industry-wide poll by Outsourced Events is anything to go by, there will be some pretty gloomy workers.  
Sixty percent of the poll's respondents said some kind of Christmas event was extremely important and 85% said it essential for staff morale and as a reward for hard work and loyalty. In speed of response alone, it was easy to tell the Christmas Party is a subject close to peoples' hearts.
And let's face it, a Christmas Do is a tradition in this country and one that the Great British working public are really not happy to do without, tight budgets or not.
So employers be warned, but also take heart. There are ways to tighten the purse strings and still deliver what employees really, really want this Christmas.
It's important to remember that end of year parties don't have to be expensive to be memorable and fun. Throw lots of thought, not lots of budget, at it.
The key, every time, to delivering the perfect Christmas party, lies in the detail.
The most important thing to remember is to think of people as individuals, rather than a group. They will appreciate it enormously, and it'll boost morale and make for a fantastic event, creating a long lasting after-glow.
One big way to save money is to go through an agency to book your venue - there's no cost to you and there are some genuinely great rates being given out to regular suppliers, so you can make sure you get the best deal possible.
A trick of the trade is to hold your event on a Monday - most venues struggle to fill this day so you'll be guaranteed a sizeable discount and your team will be none the wiser. Food and drink are the single largest items within any event budget, so keep costs down by looking for the more unusual venues that will let you bring in your own choice of catering and drinks.
We find that getting your team involved and asking their opinions is one of the best things to do. By creating a form (printed or online), you can get employees' views on what they would like to do.  The more buy-in you get, the more they will feel the event has been put together for them.
What's more, it'll help you know your employees' tastes.  Blend this with your company style to create an opportunity for fun and laughter.    Don't think expensively, think laterally; book interesting entertainment or create a fancy dress theme, which is a great ice breaker.
Pick a theme that follows through from the invitation right the way through to the event, we find people appreciate the time and effort into creating a whole experience.
If your company has a large amount of employees with families, consider running a daytime event where children have their own party - all the parents will appreciate the gesture and the kids will have a ball.
It's really important to keep it personal.  Everyone loves to feel special. Try and get people to come up with funny anecdotes about their colleagues that you can then use on the night, maybe using in a quiz or buying amusing gifts if the group would appreciate it.
And finally, if we've got one more tip, it's to avoid the subject being a negative ‘water cooler' conversation.  So communicate with employees well, with open and frank conversations about why the Christmas event is more humble this year.  Far better this than letting them come up with their own reasons.  
We've seen the Great British Public get very spirited in this recession.  So many are finding ways to make ends meet better than they have in years.  With forethought, effort and a little lateral thinking, there's no reason why this years Christmas party can't be your best one yet.
Alexandra Sibley is director of Outsourced Events