· 3 min read · News

Christmas: what HR has learned this year


Christmas is almost upon us. As ever, the season of jollity and generosity brings with it plenty of commercial opportunity, and throughout December every spare airwave will carry advertisements promoting a wide variety of products as the 'perfect gift' for loved ones.

The world of online journalism is little different, and HR’s inbox has been filled for weeks with press releases from some rather imaginative public relations officers using a link to Yuletide to ensure their organisations attract our attention.

There wasn’t enough room to use them all as separate stories, but here is a selection of things that HR has learned from our friends in PR so far this Noel.

Merry Christmas to all of our readers. We’ll be back in the New Year!

Cutting fine the shopping

Have you noticed your workplace getting quieter as Christmas approaches, and more and more colleagues re-emerging from lunchhours laden with carrier bags? The Institute of Payroll Professionals told us that more than two-fifths of employees said they are planning to take holiday or needed extended lunch breaks in order to do their Christmas shopping this year. "It may be wise for organisations to have business contingency plans in place in case there are a large number of employees all taking time off from work at the same time," their chief executive said. Or perhaps send them your own Christmas wish list and see what they come back with.

No rest for the self-employed

As ever practicing what we preach, the team at HR are given Christmas Day off, so apologies in advance for the lack of stories that day. However, the same cannot be said for owners of small businesses. Business website Freeindex found that a third of bosses at such companies would be working on Christmas or Boxing Days. Chief executive Martin Turner said, "As an aside to work pressures, the ease with which remote working allows us to access the office from home, means the temptation to answer work phone calls or emails during the Christmas period is greatly increased." Must remember to turn off my laptop during the Queen’s Speech.

Baa humbug on Christmas decorations

Most of the HR team have spent the last two weeks still wearing Christmas hats from our staff party, but such childishly festive cheer has not affected all workplaces. 55% of businesses have spent nothing on decorations this year, according to office design company Maris, with the average spend per employee being a miserly 23p, which is not even enough for an Asda chocolate reindeer. "This is slightly depressing to hear," chairman Michael Howard said. "Even in these austere times, companies should perhaps think of employee morale before cutting back completely on the Christmas decorations. A few quid on some fairy lights might go an awful long way!"


Psychologist Graham Price warned businesses noticing an increased nervousness whenever someone mentions the Secret Santa that they should be on the look out for ‘christmasphobia’.

"My client, whose christmasophobia had been triggered by a trauma at age 19, had certainly reinforced the problem by repeatedly avoiding her family’s Christmas celebration," Price said; just in case anyone was thinking of using the condition as an excuse to avoid in-laws over the break.

Secret Santa warning

Workplace consultants Croner warned employers over Secret Santa schemes, saying that they can lead to lawsuits. "Common complaints include employees whose religious beliefs prevent alcohol consumption receiving wines and spirits and sensitive employees receiving presents with sexual undertones," their spokeswoman said. Perhaps its best just to stick to giving a tie.

Christmas bacteria?

The most tenuous link came to us from Microban Europe, who sell "antibacterial technologies". Their office sent us "a list of the top five kitchen 'keep clean' areas where bacteria could lead to illness at Christmas." Dr Nicholas Moon, their director of technical and regulatory affairs, "Christmas is a festival of food in kitchens up and down the country but clearly, there is the potential for bacterial cross-contamination as a result of poor kitchen hygiene as well as the risk posed by party and ‘finger’ food being left out unrefrigerated," thereby making the turkey sandwiches we’ll still be eating in January even less appealing.

Reindeer love magic mushrooms

Try as we might, we could not find a human resources angle in this story, but couldn’t resist including it anyway. An article in this week’s Pharmaceutical Journal suggests that reindeer actively seek out hallucinogenic mushrooms, which make them "behave drunkenly, run about aimlessly and make strange noises." So share a thought for Santa this Christmas. On top of harsh weather conditions and narrow chimneys, he may have to deal with Rudolf giggling uncontrollably and announcing that his hooves have gone weird.