It was only a matter of time before the first office Christmas party warning fluttered into our email boxes. Bosses and office managers are said to be either scrapping Christmas parties altogether or cutting budgets, according to a business survey.
Oh, really? I recall receiving identical messages every year as far back as the 1970s – gloom-laden admonitions that the company had no money and economies had to be made. It’s as predictable as the reminders that times are hard so don’t fritter money on Christmas cards or office décor.
Austerity here is a hardy annual. But today office Christmas parties bring a far greater array of risks. There’s “inappropriate” over-familiar behaviour: who dares risk as much as a lingering glance across a crowded room when suspicions of an office affair can result in a grilling and P45?
Look at the array of risks now. Consumption of alcohol above acceptable norms; unhealthy dietary choices; health and safety infringements, in particular, fire hazard from a misplaced Christmas candle; larking about taking unseemly photos of body parts on top of the office photocopier. And adjournment to the grittiest pub in the neighbourhood where you get to buy your own drinks.
In the world of zero-hours contracts, out-sourcing and working from home, the traditional world of the office is becoming an anachronism. What “office” there is will be filled with a straggle of total strangers, any one of whom could be the manager you’ve never met. But here’s a clue: he’s the one running the prize raffle for the one remaining hot desk. What fun.