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Christmas parties can go ahead – but will accountants attend?

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The government might think holding Christmas parties is a good idea, but with the rise in Omicron cases, is the annual festive gathering a good idea for the traditionally risk-averse accountant?   

9th Dec 2021
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The pandemic has a mischievous habit of making fools of us all. No sooner had I conceived the idea of writing about Christmas parties 2021 style than the Omicron variant rolled along and forced a rethink.

The government's move to Plan B in England and a return to home working and Covid passes has thrown further doubt on accountancy firms' festive gatherings. In midst of the 10 Downing Street 2020 Christmas party scandal, Boris Johnson assured party goers that festive work dos are still allowable under the new Plan B guidance. 

The pros and cons of holding a Christmas party

Even before the advent of the pandemic, many firms had begun looking at the pros and cons of holding Christmas parties.

On one level, these are wonderful bonding exercises that can pay massive dividends in terms of cohesion and morale.

Denigrators would point to the fact that there are very costly, often lead to staff absence or underperformance in ensuing days and, in extreme circumstances, could occasionally directly or indirectly end up with termination of employment.

Ironically, the departing worker could be either a perpetrator of bad behaviour, a victim of the same or merely to embarrassed to show their face again after saying the wrong thing to the wrong person thereby killing career progression stone dead.

In recent straitened times, partners have often decided that rather than paying top dollar for a Christmas celebration, a summer party or possibly an event in January, when employees really needed a psychological boost with the long winter months ahead, ticked more boxes.

On this last point, readers may have spotted a recent news article about a Big Four partner who having avoided the pitfall of making an inappropriate approach to an employee at a Christmas party, did so on a firm-sponsored ski trip with devastating consequences for all concerned.

The need to reunite with colleagues

While not too many firms seriously considered taking their staff on overseas jaunts, the prospect of a restaurant or hotel dinner had practically become a desired element of the rewards package offered by most firms.

But these celebrations and gatherings were put on hold in 2020, with the country effectively locked down right through the Christmas period and all and sundry fearful of mixing with their peers.

A couple of weeks ago we had already reached the uncomfortable position where offices were beginning to open, albeit with staff typically operating from home for at least half of their working time. But those running practices were also becoming increasingly aware that, regardless of the joys of Zoom and its equivalents, the team ethic that had been of such great value could be very hard to maintain when you may not meet colleagues for days, weeks or even months.

That made what would effectively be a reunion Christmas party a particularly attractive prospect.

Covid is out of control

Even then, while the government seem to be in denial, coronavirus was running out of control with something like 300,000 people catching the virus every week. Early analysis suggesting cases could be doubling at a rate of as little as 2.5 to three days

Then, bizarrely, Omicron arrived with a bang. If we knew for a fact that the consequences were negligible, that would be one thing but in the run-up to Christmas it is unclear whether this new variant is likely to lead to mass hospitalisation and death or not.

I don’t want to suggest that any minister of state is insane but anyone in their right minds on hearing experts confirming that the virus variant might be three to six times more transmissible than the already deadly Delta were not treated as something to be laughed off.

That is effectively what has happened, as our PM and his compatriots have practically demanded people hold and attend Christmas parties, even if they were not planning to do so in the first place. As for snogging under the mistletoe…

It doesn’t take a genius to work out the facile underlying rationale. This has nothing to do with the safety of you, your colleagues or their families. Instead, it is a desperate attempt to protect the hospitality industry, at whatever cost.

Christmas party precautions 

I have only received one invitation to attend the Christmas party this year and politely declined to go anywhere near an event that could prove to be impossibly dangerous.

For those that do still intend to indulge in a bonding exercise this Christmas, a number of precautions might be implemented to limit the risk of creating a super spreader event.

While it might limit the spirit of the gesture, rather than having an office-wide party attended by a large number of people, breaking them down into units might be sensible.

You could also consider limiting invitations to those who can prove that they have had their two coronavirus jabs and, where relevant, the booster. The alternative to this might be demanding proof of recent negative test.

Finally, accountants love dressing up and it is not unknown to have a theme or even go for fancy dress. For Christmas 2021, how about instituting a competition for the most memorable mask?

Whichever way you choose to go, have fun but also take care.

In light of the recent government Plan B announcement, are you still going ahead with your office Christmas party? Are you making alternative arrangements with your work colleagues?

Replies (20)

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
09th Dec 2021 20:12

Party?
At Downing street?
In December?
Will Allegra be there?

Count me in.......

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By mkowl
10th Dec 2021 09:39

Out photocopier never recovered from the bash in 2019 but some staff enhanced their reputations as drunken louts

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Head of woman
By Rebecca Cave
10th Dec 2021 09:58

The Scottish Governement has urged people to postpone their Christmas parties: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-59599552

My local council has announced that the new Omicron varient has been discovered in the town, so we took the decision yesterday to cancel the Christmas quiz/ buffet for our local association.

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By Richard Cliff
10th Dec 2021 10:28

Well it isn't going to spoil our Christmas. We are going to our friends to stay for Christmas, otherwise it means staying at home on our own and seeing no one. Also visiting my son and family, until this year we had a gap of 21 years without seeing each other. Masks and social distancing will apply.

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By SteveHa
10th Dec 2021 11:10

I'm going to the first of two from work this evening. Mind you, here in Wales Boris' plans are just an interesting diversion, and Omicron cases in Wales are still very low (only 9 confirmed cases), so party on, dudes.

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By jamiea4f
10th Dec 2021 11:45

Here we go, more spin doom & gloom. The “new” mutation has killed precisely zero people, hospitalisations have been going down for weeks and as for the strain on the NHS.. do me a favour. I won’t be cancelling anything and nobody else should either, if you ever want some kind of life. So much spin and bullsh*t, and I’m surprised that intelligent people such as accountants actually believe any of it.

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Replying to jamiea4f:
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By johnjenkins
10th Dec 2021 14:23

I watched a bit in South Africa where the doctor actually said no oxygen or ventilators have been needed for hospitalisations of those with the "new" variant.
I don't think most Accountants do believe in the drivel and spin. I think the media hype it up so much that they believe their own rubbish.

Thanks (4)
Replying to jamiea4f:
Quack
By Constantly Confused
10th Dec 2021 14:53

I do hospital shifts every other weekend or so and can confirm Covid is still not the infection you want to be getting, unless you enjoy lounging about in a hospital bed coughing yout lungs out and on almost constant oxygen therapy.

Granted I don't know which varient the patients I see have, nor do I really care, but Covid is still around and still causing huge damage, it worries me that people are pretending it doesn't (or that it won't do them, or the people they come into contact with, any harm) so they can go out drinking with their friends.

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Replying to jamiea4f:
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By meadowsaw227
10th Dec 2021 15:20

If you are putting yourself in the "intelligent people" category then I'm surprised that beings as you are supposedly enjoying all the benefits of being part of a "civilised society" you are not prepared to obey/stick to that society's rules yourself and ridicule people who do.
Says more about you than the rest of society

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Replying to meadowsaw227:
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By jamiea4f
10th Dec 2021 16:14

I stick to rules which make sense and can be backed up that they are actually doing any good. I’m not denying covid if that’s what you’re getting at, these rules are doing more harm than good just for “delaying purposes”, potentially forcing businesses to close/scale down and this time of course there’s no JRS or grants to cover losses caused to businesses who rely on people going to work. Before you ask yes I have been vax’d, for all the good it seems to have done.

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Replying to jamiea4f:
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By lowprofile
11th Dec 2021 12:47

Yes of course you've been vaxed - that's why you're so cocky.
You want the benefits of the protection but won't share the responsibility to society.

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Replying to jamiea4f:
boxfile
By spilly
12th Dec 2021 00:06

It might not have the awful effects of the original Covid strain, but we don’t know the side effects yet.
I had Covid in Mar 20 and although I didn’t need hospitalisation, I still wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I did end up with the rather nasty side effect of it worsening my mild tinnitus to an extent where I may now have to wear a hearing aid to block it out in order to be able to hear some speech registers again.
Normally I would be all in favour of staff parties, but Covid is not like having a bout of flu; it affects people in many different ways and in some cases may prove to be much longer lasting than a hangover.

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By Rgab1947
10th Dec 2021 11:54

If at no 10 off course.

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By Clare Beazley
10th Dec 2021 13:42

Businesses are quite sensibly cancelling parties because they don't want all their staff off sick at the same time if a mass spreading event happens. This would be commercial suicide. And potential attendees are rightly wary of going to an event where they might catch Covid and then end up being in isolation over the Christmas period, and unable to see family. The risk of death from Omicron isn't relevant to either of these situations. But for as long as infected people have to isolate, this is the sort of pragmatic behaviour we will see.

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Replying to Clare Beazley:
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By johnjenkins
10th Dec 2021 14:27

How many people go to work with a cold because they can't afford time off? Children at school pass all sorts of stuff to others. It really is time we got back to normal and stopped churning out meaningless figures.

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Replying to johnjenkins:
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By Clare Beazley
10th Dec 2021 19:58

It's the requirement to self-isolate that will be driving the behaviour. No-one has to isolate for 10 days if they get a common cold.

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Replying to Clare Beazley:
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By johnjenkins
11th Dec 2021 14:58

Common colds can lead to a lot more health issues where people end up in hospital. In fact Covid is a cold virus. Once you get thousands of people isolating you might just as well go back into "lockdown".

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By Paul Crowley
10th Dec 2021 20:38

Skipped a social gathering at a Pub/Restaurant this evening
Being Jabbed does not stop the transmission
Decision on the one next week, yet to be made
Post SA holliday pushed back a complete year

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the sea otter
By memyself-eye
11th Dec 2021 18:16

Still waiting for my party invite.
I've been stabbed, prodded, jabbed, poked (though not often enough) and generally abused plenty in the last 2 years.
(and that's just by my wife.......)
Party time?

Bring it on!

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By johnt27
13th Dec 2021 11:07

Lucky for us our usual Christmas parties have been cancelled, but we have replaced them with suitably structured gatherings (at the same venue and with the same attendees...)

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