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The Office Christmas Party 2020 - How is the FM Industry Celebrating?

The Office Christmas Party 2020 - How is the FM Industry Celebrating?
13 November 2020 | Updated 24 November 2020

Without knowing exactly what lockdown restrictions will be in place in December 2020, how is the FM sector planning to celebrate their office Christmas party? 

ThisWeekinFM spoke to a variety of professionals from the facilities and workplace management world, to discover how they’re planning to reward their staff this year.


Will Work Christmas Parties go Ahead?


The first obvious question is, will office Christmas parties go ahead at all? At the time of writing, England is under its second national lockdown, preventing gatherings indoors and closing hospitality venues.

However, the rule of six doesn’t apply in the workplace, so long as COVID-secure measures are applied, and you are permitted to leave home for work purposes 

As for whether office Christmas parties will be allowed, this very much depends on the government's guidance at the time. You can find all the latest advice here.


Vinny christmas

Picture: a photograph showing some Vinny Vending Machine wrapped gifts, as well as a disco ball and tinsel


Anabas FM -  A Virtual Pantomime 


Boutique FM company Anabas is taking a creative initiative for 2020, and Account Director Ravi Bhatnagar feels that considering new approaches isn’t necessarily a negative outcome of this year’s pandemic:

“Like other forms of virtual engagement over the last 8 months, it’s just time to get creative. Typically, Christmas parties have been about a big Christmas “do” but now it’s time to change. We might also question whether that was even an approach that was entirely appropriate for everyone anyway.

We’ve been contemplating our own virtual Anabas pantomime and other online activities that we can complete together to reinforce our team spirit and collaborative culture, as well as a virtual awards ceremony. There are also companies offering virtual escape rooms or comedy shows, or entertainment companies like Enact Solutions that involve freelance actors. This is a great way to mark Christmas from afar and support other businesses and freelancers.”



Lazard -  Online Laughter Therapy and Afternoon Tea


Joe Harrison, Senior Vice President of Facilities Management at Lazard and TwinFM Editorial Advisory Board member, remembers Christmas parties of previous years and admits that this year presents a unique challenge:

“As a facilities manager of a team of 50, I always tried to stay sober enough to pay the bill and also try to ensure every member of my team knew how grateful I was for their hard work that year. So like Father Christmas whose sleigh has been clamped and towed, what do I do now? 


"I have to say that my team has probably worked harder than ever this year and our cleaning team are now industrial foggers, wearing masks all day scrubbing the decks like no tomorrow. It’s been tough."

–Joe Harrison

Senior Vice President of Facilities Management, Lazard 

“I have to say that my team has probably worked harder than ever this year and our cleaning team are now industrial foggers, wearing masks all day scrubbing the decks like no tomorrow. It’s been tough. Engineering requires more frequent changes of filters, open windows, more air flow etc, however during the pandemic and we’ve been more connected than ever.

People look forward to the traditional Christmas party - it’s a chance to let our hair down, get dressed up in a tux or put on that dress you bought in last year’s January sales and never thought you’d wear. Here are some suggestions that I have shamelessly pilfered:


  • Virtual stuff – A virtual Wine tasting with a top sommelier or gin tasting with a host, or perhaps a magician online? It seems that virtual Christmas parties are planned. Just like the lockdown quiz sessions on Zoom you can enjoy the party from home. Levels of excitement for this option vary. Could there be anything much sadder than pulling a cracker on your own?
  • A Socially Distanced Meal. The catering world has adapted swiftly to the new COVID dictated normal, and if we are released from captivity in early December it might be possible to eat together (socially distanced, of course)
  • Secret Santa?  There may be some who welcome the demise of the giving of Secret Santa gifts that are either acutely embarrassing or completely useless. There are some old traditionalists however, in favour of a long-distance version of this old faithful.
  • An idea from my wife is an afternoon tea set from fancy tea companies in a box, sent out to all team members
  • Then although there is not much to laugh about at the moment – virtual laughter therapy? 


Magenta Associates - A Socially Distanced Party


Magenta Associates, a specialist B2B communications, public relations and content agency for FM and the built environment, is planning a socially distanced get-together in their office.

Jo Sutherland, Managing Director, explained:

“The current plan, pending further changes to government guidance, is to reconfigure the space so each of us can sit one metre plus apart. The rule of six doesn’t apply in the workplace and we’ve conducted two risk assessments with an FM consultant since the last lockdown lifted to ensure our big and airy open-plan space is safe and COVID-secure.

“Each M person (as we call ourselves) will bring their own tray, and a local business will deliver a group Christmas-meal-on-wheels, which we’ll eat on our laps in a very big circle. 


Picture: a photograph of Jo Sutherland

“We’re even planning a ‘make-your-own-cocktail’ session (Magenta is providing the booze and equipment), whereby each M person will take it in turns to concoct their own creation (washing their hands before and after pawing the bottles and shakers). These concoctions will be decanted into individual glasses, all named so there’s no accidental swapping. We’ve even got a ‘social distancing officer’ on standby (a non-drinker) to ensure nobody gets too merry and bright (and cosy)!

“We’ve already asked the M people if they’d feel safe coming into the office for a Xmas shindig of some sorts and it’s a resounding ‘yes’ at the moment, but we’ve made it clear that there’s no obligation to venture in if they’re at all worried come the 23rd December.

“If we’re still in lockdown by the 23rd, Magenta will send everyone a Christmas dinner to their homes and we’ll eat together via Zoom before playing some games, courtesy of our wellbeing manager who has somehow managed to keep smiles on our faces since March.

"It’s not the same, I know, so to make up for it we’ll be letting people finish their last day nice and early. And there will be a few surprises in store, too… but Santa’s told me to keep that quiet."


Bringing Teams Together Through Good Food


If you’re still struggling to come up with office Christmas party ideas, one thing that is always set to feature, whether virtually or otherwise, is some indulgent food and drink.

Office caterers Fooditude have diversified their offering to provide baking kits, for companies that want to give their employees a helping hand with their seasonal baking. Each kit comes with premixed dry ingredients to make three different kinds of biscuits. It also comes with cookie cutters so all you have to do is mix it all together and bake. This can also be turned into a virtual team exercise or competition.

Baking hamper

Picture: a photograph of one of Foodtiude's baking boxes

Similarly, vegan vending machine company Vinny is delivering limited edition Christmas boxes to their clients. Matt Kitchen, Co-Founder & CEO of Vinny told us:

“As a modern vending machine company, Vinny felt the effect of COVID early on, when offices closed their doors, moth-balled and announced to staff we may not or will not return in the future. With a quick pivot, we put our heads together and launched our online platform, which has been positively received. We have been shipping the Vinny experience to the comfort of our customers’ homes for the last 5 months. 

“This year we felt it was extremely important to deliver the Vinny smile with our limited edition Christmas box. This has been part of our WFH offering to boost morale and business' people and culture initiatives to let employees know there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Our Christmas box is packed with some amazing brands that we have partnered with. 

“Until such time and things return to normal, we are striving to use our B2B and B2C channels as a means of promoting WFH wellness in a time that it is needed the most. 

“Our Christmas Vinny Box was a chance for us to support independent brands and a perfect addition to those WFH, virtual Christmas parties" 

Picture: a photograph showing a traditional Christmas dinner table, with a wine glass, cutlery and pine cone decorations

Article written by Ella Tansley | Published 13 November 2020


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