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UK firms Waste Millions each year on Christmas Parties

Most would rather take money than have the party, with 20% considering them “a chore”

The UK spends more than a quarter of a billion pounds on office parties – but for nearly half of the population the events are a chore more associated with drunkenness and often regrettable romantic liaisons than bonding or motivation.

Serviced office provider Business Environment polled 1,500 people on their attitude to Christmas parties. The median amount spent by companies was between ten and fifty pounds a head – although one in twenty respondents (6.5 per cent) worked at firms who spent more than £1,000 per person. The total cost of office parties came to £261,481,217 – enough to buy 86 million pints of beer , or to build a new hospital .

David Saul, Managing Director of Business Environment, said: “Office parties have become an almost religious tradition, in that companies feel compelled to organise a booze-up each December without asking themselves why. However, our studies showed that a majority of employees would rather just be given their proportion of the budget in cash than turn up to the event itself. If this is the case, then why are we wasting these fortunes every year?”

Opinion was divided over whether the traditional shindigs have any positive effect. Roughly a third of people (31.6 per cent) reported that Christmas parties helped them bond with their colleagues, and slightly more than a quarter (27.3 per cent) reported the events make them feel rewarded for hard work.

By contrast, nearly half (45.47 per cent) felt that office parties were harmful, either because they were embarrassing (16.6 per cent), because the parties distance them from colleagues rather than encouraging bonding (8.5 per cent), because they find themselves resenting management for investing too little (9.9 per cent), or because they feel the sole outcome of an office party is to give everyone a hangover the next day (10.5 per cent).

One in five (20 per cent) find Christmas parties a chore, while one in ten (13.7 per cent) wish there would be no Christmas parties at all.

Ten per cent of respondents said their colleagues tended to get “extremely drunk, to the point of memory loss and vomiting” at the annual office bash. One in five people (20.7 per cent) have kissed a colleague during a festive event. Respondents were asked to detail any strange office party experiences they had encountered, and nearly a third (28.7 per cent) of the anecdotes involved romances, one night stands, or sexual harassment.

David Saul said: “It’s not necessarily a problem that office parties are nearly as associated with romance as they are with team bonding – but there is a dark side to this. Of the pieces of anecdotal evidence offered by the survey’s respondents, roughly one in ten covered either unwanted advances or actual sexual harassment, showing that sometimes work and play don’t mix well.

“Employers should ask themselves whether an office party is worthwhile. Many people will be going drinking with their friends over the Christmas period, so is a further booze-up with colleagues always necessary? Instead, employers could concentrate on ways of making people feel valued – gifts, daytime meals, events which do not focus around alcohol – but which carry less risk of embarrassment and worse.”