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Worker in this photo you need to watch out for at Christmas party: 'No more under the radar'

Bosses watching their employees are on the rise, but the opposite is also true.

Work surveillance could be one reason more employers are ditching the office Christmas party as bosses and staff are warned it’s no longer possible to “go under the radar”.

Businesses are monitoring employees at a far greater rate than ever before, from keystrokes to their location, but a downward trend in the tradition of the office Christmas party could very well be linked to staff members being more prepared to turn the camera on their bosses.

“Every employee that attends a work Christmas party has got a smart phone and can record things, right? It used to be that, at worst, it might be gossip but now you can imagine a boss getting drunk and being filmed by lots of employees, and immediately that goes up on TikTok,” vice-president of research and advisory at Gartner HR Aaron McEwan told Yahoo Finance.

Workers drinking at a staff christmas party and a woman in the top left hand corner, barely visible, filming them on her mobile.
Workers should be concerned about a person in this image at their end-of-year parties and they are in the top left hand corner. (Credit: Getty/Yahoo Finance) (Belinda Grant-Geary)

There’s no denying there’s appetite for work-related watching. The worktok hashtag has racked up more than 2.2 billion views and the anti-work Reddit thread has 2.8m followers.


And it’s not just bosses. Colleagues can throw each other under the bus too.

“That social media phenomenon makes it harder to let your hair down,” McEwan said. “But I think we are probably approaching the end of the work Christmas party for quite a few reasons.

“You've got these shifting perceptions around things like cancel culture, or what's appropriate in the workplace and, at the extreme end of that, some employees may actually perceive the office Christmas party as a potentially hostile environment where they might be open to sexual harassment.”

A circle around the woman holding her phone filming people at the party.
For many it's the subtle co-worker who has decided to film events at the party that could be a risk. (Credit: Getty/Yahoo Finance)

Why are end-of-year work parties on the decline?

The pandemic changed the end-of-year party as contact was reduced, along with profits that meant employers had less money to throw at a big bash for all employees.

But as the events are considered an extension of the workplace, there's risks surrounding duty of care for employees.

Sky News has reportedly cancelled its end-of-year work event a year after Chris Smith was sacked for making lewd comments to a female staff member at the previous year's party.

Partner at DLA Piper Rick Catanzariti said for some employers, “it's not worth the risk anymore, especially with events that involve alcohol”.

“They know that, while it may be good for employees to hold celebrations, they’re concerned there's just no way of ensuring that something might not go pear-shaped,” he told trade publication Human Resources Director.

The lawyer is not the first to say employers should think about having a designated sober attendee to ensure people didn’t break the rules.

“That nominated person needs to actively be walking around to make sure this is happening, that the alcohol stops at the nominated time, and that people leave when they’re meant to,” Catanzariti said.

“They might be the person with the taxi vouchers. Also, it’s important that they make sure they check all the nooks and crannies because if there’s going to be some inappropriate behaviour it doesn't always occur on the dance floor.”

McEwan said there are other aspects at play, including that younger generations are placing less importance on drinking culture for bonding, or that many would prefer to have a pay rise than budgets be allocated to parties.

Having the option to work from home has seen many people move out of the city, making it harder for them to attend CBD shindigs. Remote work can also mean co-workers aren’t as close.

“Some of the data we're collecting in Australia, shows co-worker quality is now number five or six in the top reasons of why people both leave or join an employer,” McEwan said. “So, that’s an indication people may not want to spend their precious social time with people that they work with.”

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