Over the next two weeks, restaurants, pubs and clubs will be no-go zones for normal outings: yes, it’s peak office Christmas party season. Don’t go near one of these any weekday evening until Christmas unless you really want to watch others getting drunk and being obnoxious. For those of us no longer confined to the office, this is the time of year when we congratulate ourselves for our career-wrecking decision: no more office Christmas parties!
I’m not the Grinch. I (quite) like Christmas. But I hate the office Christmas party, and I’ve been to plenty. I went to one on a boat once: I wish I’d made a dash for the jetty before setting sail as one of my colleagues did. And there was one where the receptionist got so drunk that she threatened to head butt the boss.
Maybe I’ve been unlucky (and admittedly most of the office parties I’ve been to were when I worked at newspapers where abstinence and good behaviour were rare even when it’s not Christmas) but I can’t bear the drunkenness, the arguments, the rubbish food, everything about them. And then there’s the getting home after: you try getting a cab this time of year – and if you do, it will cost you more than your new party frock. Public transport will be horrendous: not for nothing are the last trains out of London to the suburbs often dubbed vomit comets. And there’s the dreaded Secret Santa: who actually thinks chocolate willies are funny?
Even if your employer is paying for your party, it is still going to cost you. Research by easyHotel (which is promoting its rooms which go from £9.99 a night) says that a quarter of office party goers fall asleep on the train home and end up 50-100 miles from home and 19% have ended up more than 200 miles away. And 68% say they lost a phone, their keys or their dignity (beyond price, surely) on the way home.
If I was going to an office Christmas party, then I’d prepare myself first. Don’t assume you will find a working cash machine when you leave the venue – and also, using a cash machine late at night when a bit drunk is a bad idea – get out enough cash to get you home beforehand. Make sure your mobile is charged but then put a lock on it and hide it at the bottom of your bag for emergencies only – that should stop you sending any messages you’ll regret later. Get your husband/partner/parent to pick you up from the party – you’ll save on the cab and put you off any alcohol-induced romantic shenanigans. Don’t take your credit cards with you. Leave valuables at home: while they might be covered on your home insurance, if the insurer thinks you weren’t taking care of them (which if you were tipsy you might not) they won’t pay up. Prepare for the party as if it’s a battleground: towards the end of the evening it will resemble one, after all.