Christmas For Business

Christmas for Business

Human Resource Impacts and Costs of Holiday and Festive Celebrations

Key Takeaway

The festive period may bring a bonanza of profits but there are also strains along the way, including added stress, reduced productivity and increased costs. Here is your survival guide in the run up to Christmas.

Holiday and festive celebrations vary around the world in number, type and length, from Independence/National Days to Chinese New Year and its annual mass movement of people. However, they all come with some sort of HR costs to businesses. Here, we use the example of Christmas in the UK, a period for merry-making and family get-togethers.


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Festive celebrations are an integral part of UK working life in December, a busy and stressful period both personally and professionally. As a time of increased consumption and consumer spending, it is thought that the festive period brings a bonanza of unbridled profits to businesses.

Festive entertaining and employee stress over Christmas preparations cost UK plc £8 billion in 2005.

Indeed, we spent nearly £73b on Christmas in 2013, an average of £488 per person, including over £1.37b on greetings cards alone1. However, research into the Christmas ‘habits’ of UK businesses and workers shows that they can also feel the strain around the festive period.

Company downtime, corporate gifts and the (in)famous Christmas party are large costs for businesses and impact on employee motivation2 and stress. The lack of planning is a large source of these increased costs.

For example:

  • Small to medium sized enterprises lose £11,500 annually due to downtime, ranked as their biggest source of spending at Christmas, but only 62 percent actually plan for downtime;
  • In terms of gifts, 55 percent of employees would like a gift from their workplace, but only 22 percent actually got one;
  • In terms of the office Christmas party, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of firms had not held a party in recent years and over one-third (34 percent) of employees thought too little was spent, 18 percent too much and 34 percent thought it a waste of money!;
  • The majority of businesses spend an average of £183.40 per head on the Christmas party, just £33.40 too much to qualify for HMRC’s annual party cost exemption!;
  • Not only do all employees need to be invited to the party and firms have a consistently applied policy, but for each employee paying 40 percent tax going over the limit even by £1 costs the company 90% more! 3;
  • December was the most stressful time of year for 42 percent of workers4, with the need to balance work responsibilities with family life (for 38 percent ) and colleagues taking holidays before the end of the year (for 32 percent) the main causes of stress; and
  • The office Christmas party did little to relieve this stress as two-fifths (37 percent) did not want to go their company’s celebrations because they wanted to keep their work and family life separate (41 percent) or it clashed with family duties (24 percent).

Festive entertaining and employee stress over Christmas preparations cost UK plc £8 billion in 20055, equivalent to nearly £11 billion6 in 2015 in December, through reduced worker productivity7. From 18 December, with five full working days to go, nearly one-half the workforce hit ‘festive fizzleout’ leaving them spending more time worried about Christmas festivities rather than work, with a marked effect on productivity.

Over two-thirds (68 percent) of workers were less productive throughout the whole of December compared to other months, with nearly one-half admitting they did 10 – 20 percent less work and 1 in 6 some 20 – 30 percent less. Reasons for reductions in output included a combination of exhaustion, lack of motivation and hangovers.

As a result of stressful December and Christmas entertaining, over one-half did not expect to feel rested on returning in the New Year, with women feeling less rested than men.

In detail:

  • 60 percent were less productive because they over-indulged and ate and drank the wrong things;
  • 90 percent expected to attend at least four Christmas lunches, which, at an average 2,000 calories per meal with all the trimmings, account for 80 percent of the full day’s recommended calorific intake for men and the full allowance for women8;
  • Nearly a third (27 percent ) drank more than one bottle of wine with each work related Christmas lunch;
  • 10 percent blamed hangovers for reduced output, with women being nearly twice as likely to be more hungover in December than at any other time of the year compared to men;
  • One-third felt physically exhausted at the end of the year;
  • 10 percent had been ill over the Christmas break as a result of pre-Christmas over-indulgence;
  • ‘Festive fizzelout’ hit women harder than men, with nearly twice as many women more concerned by Christmas compared to men;
  • As a result of stressful December and Christmas entertaining, over one-half did not expect to feel rested on returning in the New Year, with women feeling less rested than men; and
  • It was easy to gain as much as 2kg over Christmas, especially since we commonly consume 6,000 calories just on Christmas day.

Amount of exercise needed to work off those Christmas treats

1 portion (100g) Christmas pudding (500cal) 2½ hours walking
1 mince pie (250cal) ½ hour running
2 glasses red wine (160cal) ½ hour tennis
1 glass champagne (100cal) 20 mins dancing
1 bite-size speciality chocolate (80cal) 10 mins aerobics
1 mini sausage roll (180cal) 25 mins swimming


12 Days Of Christmas – Your Survival Guide in the Run Up to Christmas

1st Wow, can it really be that time of year once again! Start to prepare for the onslaught!

2nd Arrange Christmas meals at lunchtime to give more time to burn off calories during the day.

3rd Treat your work colleagues by bringing in festive dried fruits and nuts rather than mince pies.

4th Pile on the turkey (which also has trptophan which our bodies use to make serotonin) and vegetables but go easy on the roast potatoes, pigs in blankets and gravy.

5th Walk back to the office instead of getting a taxi or bus and take the stairs to keep active.

6th Choose herbal tea or water rather than coffee to keep your concentration levels high.

7th Nurse your alcoholic drinks and remember to drink a glass of water for every glass of alcohol.

8th Do not scrape the plate clean – eat half the starter and dessert.

9th Have a merry breakfast – make sure you do not arrive at your Christmas lunch starving hungry and end up filling yourself on high fat nibbles.

10th Stay clear of the buffet or having your glass constantly refilled, put a set amount on your plate and in your glass so you know how much you have consumed.

11th Get your team to go out dancing or ice-skating as a work outing to burn off those extra calories consumed over the Christmas countdown.

12th Avoid post-party guilty starvation – this could start up a cycle of starvation and bingeing which is difficult to break. Choose healthy low-fat snacks and meals the day after a party.

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Christmas decorations headline image courtesy Su Ann [email protected]


The real cost of Christmas in the UK

2 Research by Stay Sourced using 150 people reported in ‘The Christmas period costs UK businesses thousands’, The Economic Voice, 28 November, 2014

3 M. Lewis ‘How Much Will Your Christmas Party Actually Cost Your Business, Concur, 30 September, 2015

4 Research conducted for MetLife by Consumer Intelligence on 1-4 December 2015 with nationally representative online sample of 1,067 full time employees aged 18+.

5. Research for Avenance report by Experian’s consumer research service Canvasse Opinion using quantitative online methodology between 18-24 November 2005 with 1,004 respondents.

6 Historic inflation calculator : How the value of money has changed since 1900.

7 Productivity figure calculated by taking annual UK GDP figure divided by 12 for a monthly average. 68.3% of this monthly average was then calculated, as this was the proportion of workers who claimed they are less productive in December. Calculations of lost productivity based on an average rate of 15% less activity in December.

8 Recommended daily calorie allowance figures taken from IGD.

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