The death of the office Christmas party

On both sides of the Atlantic, the Christmas office party ain't what it used to be.


"Plentiful drinks and LOLs" and unwanted advances
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Christmas parties are an established annual tradition both here and in America. Stateside holiday gatherings have, however, become "toned-down affairs as executives respond to demands to cut costs, improve company morale and, this year, address sexual harassment in the workplace", says Laura Holson in The New York Times.

Media firm Time, "once known for Christmas hoopla where convivial young editors supped on buckets of oysters and glasses brimming with champagne, has moved its party to dreary January for the second year in a row". HBO is also scrapping its tradition of spending $300,000 on renting a grand ballroom at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square for "a lavish holiday luncheon for its 2,500 employees".

Still, "the mark of a good party is not necessarily a huge budget", says Emma Jacobs for the Financial Times. Many people in fact prefer the "recent austerity-era Christmas parties to the lavish pre-financial crisis ones". Organisers have to be more creative and focus on things people actually like, she says, such as "plentiful drinks and LOLs". Sadly, even these small pleasures are dying out as firms cut down on alcohol, says Josh Glancy in The Sunday Times. Lawyers are also suggesting that "companies do not hang mistletoe for fear that creepy office predators will use it as an excuse to engage in unwanted kissing".

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"Who wants to go to a party where everything that makes a do' is a don't? not me," thunders Rachel Johnson in The Mail on Sunday. "It used to be part of your job description come mid-December: get blotto on company booze, put the moves on the boss, photocopy your bottom, snog your crush under the mistletoe, vomit, pass out, and then show up to work the next day as though nothing had happened." Men and women have been consuming alcohol in public on social occasions since the dawn of time. A social function "cannot, and should not, be turned into a safe space' where people have to ask permission to talk to or touch each other".

Of course, it is possible to go to the other extreme. At most Silicon Valley Christmas parties you are "almost certain to wind up with a rather samey crowd, made up mostly of guys", says Sarah Frier on Bloomberg. This year, however, "there'll be a surprising influx of attractive women mingling with the engineers". This is because "local modelling agencies, which work with Facebook- and Google-size companies as well as much smaller businesses and the occasional wealthy individual, say a record number of tech companies are quietly paying $50 to $200 an hour for each model hired solely to chat up attendees".

Some bosses are able to be generous without being sleazy. Arabella Lewis-Smith, 42, "has been dubbed the best boss in the world' after flying all 20 of her team toSpainfor a two-night getaway last week", says Lara Keay in the Daily Mail. "The grateful employees basked in Spanish winter sunshine, a far cry from the wind and rain lashing down at the office in Dorset". The total cost came to "£5,000 for the trip, which included return flights from Gatwick, Airbnb accommodation and two boozy dinners". Last year she took the company to see a West End show, "while other outings have included kayaking sessions and walks in the New Forest".

Tabloid money Zara Phillips helps women get in the saddle

"If you think politicians are dodgy these days, with their expenses fiddling, sexual misconduct and sheer incompetence, count yourself lucky you didn't grow up in the Sixties," says Lorraine Kelly in The Sun. Christine Keeler (who died last week aged 75) was only 19 years old when she was "essentially pimped out to rich and powerful men", including then-Tory minister John Profumo a sex scandal dubbed the Profumo Affair that ultimately brought down the government.

Had it happened today, Keeler would have been given "her own reality show, clothing range and perfume label". As it was, she was effectively shunned. "I'm sorry she had such a tough life, and a sad end She deserves our sympathy."

"I enjoyed reading that [television journalist] Christiane Amanpour will take on Charlie Rose's prime-time slot on US TV channel PBS," says Karren Brady in The Sun on Sunday. "Talented women taking over from powerful old men accused of sexual harassment is really quite satisfying." But we still have some way to go on achieving equality between the sexes, especially when it comes to attitudes towards pay. Take, for example, former Bath Spa University boss Christina Slade's £800,000 pay package that outraged so many in the press. Would the story have made so many headlines if Slade had been a man?

For the sixth year, the Queen's granddaughter, Zara Phillips, will be "enjoying the very best of Aussie hospitality in return for her role as patron of Magic Millions", an initiative to support more women in racehorse ownership, says Adam Helliker in the Sunday Express. Promoting Australian racing is the latest in a long line of "lucrative deals" for Phillips, who is thought to have "raked in" £1m a year from promotional work with brands, such as Rolex, Land Rover and Musto.