The Christmas party’s over – for 2020

Social distancing claims a new set of victims as venues struggle to work out what they can and can't do

How many more ways can Covid-19 screw up our lives? Sport without spectators. What a crock! People queuing from 5.30 in the morning to get into Ikea. What a load of meatballs! Mailmen dressing up as Bo Peep or Roman soldiers. Whatever next?

Well, I’ll tell you what’s next. The coronavirus has already cast a shadow over Christmas with many a works party cancelled. Yes, work and office Christmas parties are being called off across the UK as venues and businesses are struggling to guess what will – or will not – be allowed at the end of 2020.

It seems a bit early to me to be making such decisions. A lot – both good and bad – can happen between now and the end of the year. But, with large gatherings of people looking likely to be restricted for the foreseeable future this has led to those who have forward-booked large work and office parties being told their party plans will not now happen.

“Just as we thought 2020 could not get much worse, we’ve had to cancel our Christmas party – as have many of our clients. Our party venue isn’t sure how social distancing will work, so it isn’t bothering this year – it’s too much of a risk,” explains Jonathan Ratcliffe from office space company Offices.co.uk

This film, which came out in 2016, seems to sum up office Christmas parties. Warning – some of the language is a tad fruity.

Restaurants and venues across the UK rely on the busy Christmas period to boost cash reserves going into the quiet January and February months. The restrictions that may be imposed on businesses reliant on social contact is going to be very damaging during what should be a boom time.

“It’s all just so sad isn’t it? Not only for the pubs and restaurants who rely on the Christmas trade, but for everyone working so hard during what is an awful time to run a business. People who are working are already close to burning out with stress, and a party is one thing to enjoy at the end of the year – seems even this is not happening this year,” adds Ratcliffe.

For those who cannot meet up in person, there are plans afoot to celebrate the usual office and work Christmas games but using “work from home” virtual technology to bring Christmas cheer to all – just no kissing under the mistletoe in 2020! Does that sort of thing go on at a works Christmas party? Surely not.

Ideas for “socially distanced” Christmas parties:

  • Virtual drinks – use work video conferencing to enjoy a festive drink and a chat with colleagues;
  • Fancy dress conference calls – yes this will be a thing this year;
  • Secret Santa – deliver a secret present via post to a random (in all senses of the word) workmate;
  • Microwave Christmas dinner – enjoy a burning hot conference call meal together;
  • Virtual wine and cheese course – LoveCheese.co.uk will deliver cheese and wine to your door and then guide you through with virtual tasting notes!
  • Zoom Karaoke – as if it is not annoying enough, at least you can put mute on.

“As bad as it is, we’re excited to see what everyone comes up with to replace the face-to-face Christmas fun – it’ll be the best Christmas for grumpy scrooges that’s for sure”, concludes Ratcliffe.

What’s my take on all this? “It’s the end of the word as we knew it” was my initial reaction. I regard myself as a full paid-up member of the Grumpy Scrooges Society. If there isn’t one, I’ll consider forming it. However, I do confess to enjoying a Christmas do with work colleagues. The trick is to not get so smashed that you end up telling a boss his or her fortune or go disgracing yourself using the photocopier for something it was not intended to do.

Come to think of it, maybe the lack of work Christmas parties might save a few careers!

The Party’s Over by Nat King Cole (1957)
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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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