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The Morning Call “Lehigh Valley Workplaces” column: Avoid trouble at this year’s holiday office party

Posted on: December 13th, 2018 | Category: Human Resources, Morning Call Colulmn, Our Blog

Lehigh Valley Workplaces Tina Hamilton Holiday Party OverachieversAs we dive into the holiday season, human resources departments everywhere begin to go on high alert for the ever-so-reliable holiday “overachievers.”

I’m not talking about overachieving in terms of work performance. I’m talking about overachieving holiday partiers — those employees and executives who just can’t stop at one celebratory toast. They make HR’s spirit far from festive, especially when cellphones come out and digital archiving of the “fun” begins. You can now add sexual harassment investigations and discrimination prevention training to HR’s to-do list for the new year.

If I may speak momentarily as the voice of HR managers everywhere, I can assure you that we are, in fact, fun people. But we are also responsible people whose jobs are to help keep everyone safe — even at office parties. So, while we still enjoy the festivities, we are also there to keep an eye out.

Holiday overachievers

Here are some tips for employers and employees as we celebrate the holiday season at work:

  • Enjoying some fun time together is great, but do so in a way that benefits all involved.
  • If you decide to drink (as many do), take steps to prevent overindulging. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to nudge you if you are going over the line. Offer to do the same for them.
  • Employers, consider offering to pay for car service, such as Uber or Lyft, for your party guests. It is a wise investment.
  • What is posted on social media can be hard to completely erase later. Turn your phone off if you can’t help yourself, and enjoy the moment without distraction.

That said, holiday parties can be fun. We love them. But with liability issues growing every day, I have to wonder: Are these parties really the best way to enjoy end-of-the-year recognition?

Celebrations revisited

company perksA recent Randstad U.S. survey polled more than 1,200 employees across the country and found that 90 percent would prefer a bonus or extra vacation time over a company-sponsored event as an annual holiday perk. What’s more, the study also found that employees often felt pressured to attend holiday parties, with roughly 70 percent of younger workers reporting they felt compelled to participate in holiday activities.

What employees do seem to appreciate is philanthropy. The Randstad study reported that nearly 75 percent of employees polled valued holiday philanthropic efforts, more than any other seasonal perk. This mirrors insights from a recent article published by the Society of Human Resources Management that highlighted how companies are reconsidering the traditional holiday party and turning to other team-building and community service opportunities instead.

The end of the year is an excellent time for employers to survey their workforce about what holiday events and perks they find most valuable and meaningful. The results can help determine better activities to do for the holidays next year. It is easy to fall into the trap of “this is what we have always done,” but it might be time to shake things up.

Out-of-the-box events

For things to do with your team that are not focused around drinking and eating:

Lehigh Valley Grand Prix: go-kart racing, team building, lots of cool fun

Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays: said to be one of the safest and fastest growing sports in the country — and it’s offered right here in our backyard

Pines Dinner Theatre: offering holiday dinner shows and a risk-free snow day policy

Christmas City Follies: a one-of-a-kind Vaudevillian holiday sendup at the Touchstone Theatre in Bethlehem

ArtsQuest: pick from an array of concerts, classes, events, shows and exhibits

Discover Lehigh Valley: offers a wonderful online calendar of events — you can even call them for advice.

Community service, too

myHR Partner IncPhilanthropic activities can be done in lieu of parties. You can still make a special team event of it by including a potluck lunch or ordering pizza or bagels for the event. Below are a few local organizations to consider:

Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley: Adopt a family who is staying at one of their safe houses, or give holiday presents or basic necessities.

Allentown Rescue Mission: There are many ways to help here, including donating much needed cleaning, grooming and clothing supplies for men.

Boys and Girls Clubs: There are several chapters in the Lehigh Valley where you can donate gifts for children ages 5-18.

Feeding America: Find a local food bank or soup kitchen to help with this resource.

Group visits to a local elder care facility: You can spend an afternoon doing crafts or playing bingo with seniors who would love the company.

Tina I. Hamilton, PHR, SHRM-CPVolunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley: Check out this extensive clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities within the community.

Be sure to contact the organizations ahead of time to coordinate your activity.

Happy holidays to all of my readers! Be safe and enjoy!

This article first appeared in the Lehigh Valley Business Cycle section of  The Morning Call on December 11, 2018. The original article can be found here.

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