There are three tasks that strike fear into the heart of every Human Resources practitioner.
- Responsibility for designating employee parking spots.
- Responsibility for employee seniority lists.
- Responsibility for planning the company office party.
Each of these is fraught with difficulties for various reasons. The only common thread for all three tasks is that, in the end, no matter how hard they try to get it ‘right’, someone will be angry with the designated HR practitioner.
The first two tasks require the categorization of individuals based on organizational hierarchy, length of service and other definition based processes. Nobody likes the processes or the end results, except for those who benefit from them with the good parking spot or the top notch on the seniority list.
The third task, the office party, comes with a host of challenges, which include trying to provide organized glee for people who may, or may not, want to socialize with each other after working hours. What is meant to be a positive event for employees, to thank them for their efforts, comes with rules, regulations, and stipulations as a result of unfortunate party outcomes from the past.
The office party is linked to Occupational Health and Safety for many reasons. There are numerous risks that come with the gathering of individuals who are meant to get together to have a ‘good time’. Celebratory food, drinks, games and dancing are all part of what most people expect when they have a party. When one of these elements goes wrong (the food results in salmonella poisoning; the games and/or dancing cause physical injuries; the drinks lubricate individuals to the point of lewd behaviour), the employer is liable for the consequences. Rather than the event ending in a feel good result for everyone, when things go wrong, the employer is left with significant costs and potential penalties under the provisions of the Occupational Health and Safety Act.
Does this mean that employees can no longer have any fun? No, not exactly.
Good party planning, which includes reasonable precautions, should result in successful party celebrations, as noted in HRMOnline.
For a good time to be had by all, a good plan needs to be in place first. Once the party is over, the only thing that people should remember is that they did have some fun, with no disastrous results for anyone.
If everybody ends up being happy, hopefully, the HR Practitioner can be happy too.
- Interview a Health and Safety representative at your current workplace to ask them about the potential risks involved in an employee office party both on-site and off-site.
- What types of safety risks do you think are involved for an employee ‘gathering’ at a bar outside of working hours?
- If you had responsibility for planning an office social event, how would you proceed? Would you include alcohol, games, dancing? Why or why not?
- Have you participated in an office social event? What was it like? What would you change about the event?