We’ve all been there before, your inbox chimes, and you open an enthusiastic email from a colleague announcing some “fun” activity to boost morale. And your heart sinks as you start thinking of excuses to get out of it. Whether it’s a boozy work night out or a team-building retreat, sponsored “fun” at work can be excruciating for some people.
For many employers, work-related social events can be an inexpensive and easy-to-organise workplace perk. Benefits can include increased productivity, reduced job-related stress and reward staff for their hard work. However, while all employees should be invited to take part, employers should not try to force workers to do this if they do not want to.
Forcing social interactions when employees would rather not cause more harm than good, especially if the event is happening after work hours. Mandatory events are less likely to be considered fun by a workforce and employees who feel they have to take part. This action could have the opposite effect than the employer’s original intentions; rather than strengthening an employment relationship, it could serve to damage it.
There could be many reasons why some employees may not wish to join in. For example, employees who do not enjoy drinking, or do not drink due to their religious beliefs, maybe put-off from attending if it is a boozy event. Alternatively, some employees may not be able to join in more sporty activities due to a condition or prefer not to. Although there are steps, employers can take to try to encourage inclusivity, such as holding a staff survey to ascertain the needs and requirements of the workforce as a whole. Employers should always be mindful of the potential for discrimination. Remember that no employee should feel they are being treated less favourably, either by their manager or colleague, because of a protected characteristic.
When planning a social event, it is unlikely that an employer will please everyone. If the same employees seem to be not attending every time, it could be a sign that these activities are not taking the needs and interests of everyone into account.