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Workplace expert says companies need to keep the office Christmas party

There's no need for companies to act like Scrooge when it comes to company holiday parties. One workplace expert has some insightful tips that might bring people some cheer.

Cheap and cheerful holiday office party ideas for the economic downturn

Cancelling the office Christmas party is not good for morale, says one workplace expert. (iStock)

The days of lavish corporate champagne-filled Christmas parties may be over during this economic downturn but companies who are planning to outright cancel celebrations may want to rethink that idea, says a workplace expert.

Melanie Peacock, a workplace expert, says companies should strive to show employees a little recognition over the holidays, even it means a small social gathering.

Caterers and event planners are already seeing a dramatic downturn in business — as much as 90 per cent this year.

Melanie Peacock, associate professor at Mount Royal University's Bissett School of Business, is also hearing from many sectors and business — big and small — that holiday parties are scaling way back or being kiboshed.

But many employees are saying, "I hope we get something," says Peacock.

  • Is your workplace having a Christmas party? Tell us in the comments section below.

Affects morale

"If companies do absolutely nothing, it's sending a message to employees that they're not valued. It's very de-motivating and it might even be a spiralling effect that we're saying, 'The economy might be even worse than we think,'" she says.

On the flip side, if a company proceeds to have a party, she advises it needs to be mindful of the optics.

"It would be very inappropriate to have a lavish or extravagant holiday party, when your colleagues have just been let go."

Workplace research shows there is "survivor's syndrome," something that can affect people left in a company after many workers have been laid off.

Doesn't have to be fancy

"We have to remember to recognize and be very aware of the mental and physical capabilities of the people who remain behind," said Peacock. "This is one simple way to say thank you."

There is always value in having some kind of social event for morale and showing gratitude to people. It doesn't have to be fancy.

"Just getting people together at an appropriate venue or at an appropriate time ... to have informal conversations ... to say Happy Holidays ... can do amazing things for teamwork and for people to connect.

"Social events of any kind can also serve as a great motivator, because people will feel recognized and people will be more apt to help the company move on," Peacock said.

There is a also lot of research about the power of interaction. Peacock's research has shown that it's important colleagues see each other as human beings.

Cheap, cheerful ideas

"If you take the time to recognize employees — even in a small way — it's the message you're sending. There are lots of creative way to do it."

Here are a few cheap, cheerful ideas and workplace tips from Peacock.

  • Have a potluck where people bring dishes from their culture or a family favourite, and then have them talk about it.
  • Another potluck idea involves asking people to get creative and make a dish that represents something they did at work this year.
  • Support a charity together by having a secret Santa party. Each person buys a toy that reminds them of the person who's name they picked. Write a note about why bought that toy. If nothing, it's good for a few laughs. Then donate the toy to a children's charity.
  • Don't make a social event mandatory, but encourage people to go
  • Don't forget to thank the boss, whether you received a turkey or cheque.

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