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Alex Hewitt, CEO of AOK Events, explains why throwing a Christmas party for your employees is a must this year

1. Why are Christmas office parties an important event for employers and employees?

Given what’s happened with Covid-19, saying thank you to your staff has never been more important. Companies up and down the country have placed wellbeing higher up the corporate agenda, maybe more than ever before. To make good on that promise of looking after your staff and making sure that their employment is fun and rewarding, organising a Christmas party, regardless of how much you spend on it, is a massive tick. Not organising one is a massive turn off, particularly for Generation Z.

When organised well, they are a brilliant team-building exercise, which staff and employees will talk about it in the weeks leading up to the event and hopefully for days afterwards. Given how starved we have all been over the last year and a half of fun, happy memories, for an investment of £50-£150 per employee, regardless of whether it’s live, virtual or hybrid, organising one this year to me, is a must.

2. What is your outlook on 2021 Christmas office parties; will they be in-person, virtual or hybrid?

The good news is, the vast majority of our clients are definitely doing something this year. While a lot of people still haven’t made up their minds. From the bookings and enquiries we have seen over the last three to four weeks, there is an even split between live events, virtual events and hybrid events. For virtual events, they are not just virtual events, they are creative and engaging virtual events. For hybrid solutions, we have seen employers send out gifts to employees to say thank you to recognise their hard work.

3. If Christmas office parties do go ahead in person, what will differ this year?

If they go ahead in person, I think there will be a number of changes. I think there has never been a better time to book a venue, every venue, particularly in London, will be grateful to have a live event. They will nurture, cherish and love your party like never before. Every venue out there is keen to get the crackers and the sparklers out again. I think that most corporates will book venues that are slightly bigger than their numbers need in order to make sure there’s a good flow of people and ensure you don’t get any bottlenecks of people.

I do think a registration process will be more important this year than ever before and as part of that process, employees will be asked to give information about whether they have been double vaccinated or if not, they will be asked to take a lateral flow test beforehand.

Food and drinks service will also change. Having a buffet and lots of people diving into the same bowls of food isn’t going to make sense. It will be seated dinners where food is either served to you by waiting staff who have been through safety precautions, or you will be served your own individual food where you help yourself. 

4. What advice would you give to eventprofs who are planning a Christmas office party this year?

First of all, go and talk to your senior management team and find out what their objectives and expectations are and what they would be happy to organise and spend on the event. Once you have that decision making sorted, challenge yourself to organise the best event you have ever organised. It might be the most important staff event that has ever taken place. Whether you are organising it yourself or through the help of an agency, don’t settle for second best.

There will never be a better opportunity to organise an amazing event with the best venue, the best food and the best entertainment. Normally this time of year, the venues are almost gone. But this year, there are loads of Thursday and Friday nights still available. Challenge yourself to create a memory for your company.

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