November 3, 2020

Hosting a COVID-19 Christmas party

It’s usually this time of year that HR professionals spend time preparing the protocols of the annual Christmas party. But it’s 2020 and coronavirus brings a whole new perception on what’s acceptable. If you’re planning to host a party for your organisation, read our guide on how to best prepare below.

Can you even have an office Christmas party in 2020?

As it currently stands, there are rules we have to follow. Yes, in theory, you can host an office party, but with restrictions.

In New South Wales, a four-square metre rule applies to indoor gatherings and a two square metre rule applies to external gatherings.  This means an indoor venue of 100 sq m can host 25 people and 50 if it’s outdoors. In Victoria, restrictions are tighter, with just 10 people allowed to gather outdoors right now in Metropolitan Melbourne. However, there’s a good chance this could change before Christmas comes around depending on the number of coronavirus cases. And, in other jurisdictions less affected by COVID-19 – such as Queensland and WA – there are fewer restrictions but there are still rules to keep in mind, such as Queensland’s two square metre rule for outdoor venues.

How to keep your end of year function COVID-19 safe

2020 has been a tough year for many of us, so it’s perfectly understandable the need to celebrate. Here are some things you can prepare from an HR perspective.

  1. Know where you stand with restrictions. I’ve already said this but can’t stress it enough. Falling foul of restrictions can lead to severe penalties. And, it’s not just the fine you need to worry about. As a business owner, you have a WHS obligation to keep all employees safe.
  2. Stay flexible. I know it’s a great feeling to get the Christmas part all booked, but things are a little different this year. With the COVID-19 situation (and restrictions) changing frequently, try and keep things flexible if you can.
  3. Keep it private. With restrictions in place, big gatherings are problematic. If your organisation is on the larger side, consider breaking up individual departments rather than having a party for the whole company.
  4. Make it outdoors. A significantly safer option.

What are some alternatives to an office Christmas party?

As you can see there’s plenty of rules to follow and restrictions in place. As a result, it might just be too hard to organise an office party. If you’re looking for an alternative to a traditional Christmas party, why not consider some of these ideas?

  • A workplace picnic, barbecue or beach day. This can get you out in the great outdoors in a low-risk environment and – weather permitting – it can be just as fun.
  • A bushwalk or hike. Why not have a Christmas function that’s a little bit different?
  • Gift hampers or vouchers. For some offices, remote working and border restrictions make it tough to gather at all. But a small gift can not only boost morale but show you care.
  • An online party. A low key drink with colleagues over Zoom carries a very low risk of COVID-19 or cancellation.

What are my HR obligations with COVID-19?

It’s important to remember that COVID-19-related human resources obligations will continue to apply right through the Christmas period These include ensuring the wellbeing of employees, particularly their mental health as well as workplace safety. You should also be doing what you can to keep all employees positive, engaged and focused.

Still have Christmas celebration questions?

If you’re still unsure of what you can and can’t host in your workplace, or need clarification around COVID-19 rules and restrictions then reach out to the Catalina Consultants team today. We’d love to assist.

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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