Large companies are putting an end to the office Christmas party. Picture: iStock
Large companies are putting an end to the office Christmas party. Picture: iStock

RIP to the office Christmas party. We’ll miss you

Remember the office Christmas party?

That fabulous night of the year when you drink the boss's booze, let your hair down with your colleagues and stumbled home full of joie de vivre and renewed morale because through your rose-tinted beer goggles you could see yours was the best workplace in the world?

Well, treasure your memories because companies across the nation are considering cancelling their annual office festivities. Jitteriness in the wake of #MeToo, the growing nanny state mentality and former NSW Opposition leader Luke Foley's alleged Christmas party grope have sent human resources departments into a tailspin.

Myer has already turned Grinch and banned its celebrations so staff can stay "focused on customers" while some firms are holding training events on how to "manage" seasonal gaiety in the workplace.

For the love of a good shindig can they not see that this is utter nonsense? Banning the office Christmas party is a monstrous over-reaction to an easily rectified problem. Rather than clamping down on a bit of booze and a festive boogie, companies need to support the resocialising of their staff.

You see the very reason staff get hammered, throw up the cheap sausage rolls and commit the sort of indiscretions which render their employment untenable come Monday is because they're horribly out of practice at fraternising with their colleagues.

There’s always one. Picture: iStock
There’s always one. Picture: iStock

In the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, companies have killed off the long lunch and Friday afternoon drinks. Team building workshops are no longer three-day affairs at a regional Best Western but a 90-minute pow wow at 10am on a Wednesday morning followed by a tray of dessicated sushi. Honestly, the only levity on offer in this era of redundancies, royal commissions, stand-up meetings and hot-desking is dress-down Fridays and breakout spaces - although head into one of those on your own and everyone thinks you're having a breakdown.

Our personal lives only magnify the problem. In these device-dependent days, we've lost the art of speaking to others. Small talk is executed over Tinder or Bumble and thoughts and emotions are expressed via emoticons rather than facial movement. All the skills learned face-to-face - conversation, civility, collegiality, problem-solving, nuance - are blunted because we commune with our phone screens instead. Subscription television services are also to blame. Whereas Friday nights were once spent in the pub followed by a kebab and a cheerful journey home on the late bus, now we scurry back to our individual abodes for Netflix and and a takeaway. Chatting to people we don't know is on its way to becoming a niche custom practised only by toddlers and retirees.

Fortunately I have a solution. Rather than punishing our collective lack of social ease and correspondingly poor behaviour by cancelling Christmas parties it's up to workplaces to retrain us. Having abrogated the parenting of our children to teachers surely it's only right that companies take up the slack and offer adult education in the arts of interpersonal skills and general sociability.

In the first instance they need to bring back Friday afternoon drinks. Had Alan Rickman's boss character in Love Actually instigated a weekly tipple the doofus may have learned to ignore his secretary's flirting and thus averted lovely Emma Thompson's Joni Mitchell-accompanied bed smoothing.

This illicit flirting in Love Actually would never have happened if these colleagues had fraternised more regularly. Picture: supplied
This illicit flirting in Love Actually would never have happened if these colleagues had fraternised more regularly. Picture: supplied

Speaking of Rickman, he has form with Christmas parties. In Die Hard he ruined the entire Yuletide festivities by blowing up the Nakatomi Plaza. Perhaps if he'd enjoyed a glass of summer rose with his fellow terrorists he'd have found a more peaceful solution to his problems.

The beauty of end-of-the-week drinks is that it actually increases productivity. Whereas workers typically spend the dying hours of Friday paying personal bills and shopping online for their nephew's birthday present, repurposing the time for convivialities means colleagues head into the weekend full of bonhomie. Come Monday they're inspired to work cooperatively with the people they now know and understand a little better. Indeed, far from being concerned about their workers coupling up, companies should encourage it. It's proven that a healthy sex life is good for confidence and wellbeing plus if these workplace pairings lead to long-term unions how advantageous that couples understand the idiosyncrasies and pressures of that particular job. The birthrate would go up which would make the population boffins happy and ensure the workforce is renewed for the next generation. Win win.

This is an argument lost on our killjoy colleagues over at Fairfax, one of whom has written a gloomy eulogy to "reckless" Christmas parties. Citing the "legal, financial and reputational risks from inappropriate behaviour", the cost and the "mindless chit chat" as reasons to euthanase the "workplace relic", the fun sponge opines that a charity donation in lieu of a party may be more appropriate.

Bollocks. Investing in the resocialising of their workforce is a far more altruistic long-term initiative for bosses. Happy, connected, communicative people naturally show generosity to others. Forego the mistletoe and you'll end up with employees who are dull, solipsistic, self-serving and mean.

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