Due to the global impact of the cost of living crisis, many businesses are rethinking how to further support their employees, with some choosing to provide monetary bonuses as opposed to a traditional Christmas party at the office.
Workplace solutions company, Officeology spoke exclusively to Antonio Wedral, co-founder of eCommerce Agency of the year 2023, NOVOS, who has shared his reasons on why he opted to give his employees a bonus last year instead of a Christmas party, and how this decision impacted employee sentiment.
With Christmas being an overwhelming period for many, both financially and mentally, Antonio wanted to find a way to alleviate the load on his employees while ensuring it was a wise move for the business financially.
“Initially, the decision to give our employees a bonus rather than a party was driven by the cost of living crisis coming into full effect and the stress it was resulting in. Obviously, we as a business were also feeling the effects of what was happening as clients were leaving due to poorer sales, which meant we also couldn’t justify doing a huge Christmas bonus to share with the team for performance purposes. But due to the stress, me and my business partner Sam thought perhaps the team might want the cash more than a night out, so we wanted to put the question to them.”
“As we’re an employee-owned company, we have established a “people committee”, which is a group of select team members that represent the voices of the whole company. It was they who pulled together the survey and the best approach in terms of communicating it.”
With a plan in place, Antonio and Sam made sure to establish a realistic timeline that aligned with the business goals and cash flow.
“The survey was sent out at the end of October, and this was done because we knew we’d have to pay for a party deposit in November, so we needed to make a decision. Once the results were in, we then split the payments over three months simply based on the alphabetical order of all employees (i.e., those whose first name began with A up to letter G were paid their share in November, G to R were in December, and then January was the final cohort), which we did to manage cash flow.”
Dealing with the continuous shift in workplace trends is not easy, but Antonio stresses the importance of ensuring all employees are heard and how to reflect these thoughts and feelings through each decision.
“When we officially announced we were paying out a Christmas bonus, we did get thank yous, but we also didn’t do it to “feel respected”, we did it to try and reduce stress on the team. The sentiment in general was positive, but some were frustrated that there would be no party, so we organised a low-key, relatively low-cost social instead for those that were interested in going. I also feel like people would always appreciate more money, but that’s all we could commit to at the time, and we did what we assumed we’d spend on a full Christmas party.”
“Many of our team members do prefer working at home and not attending socials, which is totally fine. But equally, we’ve got many of the team members who do want socials, to meet more of their team, and to be more present in the office. We’ve tried to find the right balance by asking for everyone’s individual commitment, but we also recognise that it is important for the team to get together every so often and just have fun getting to know each other, because every time it happens, people say it was actually good. That’s why this year we’re doing a Christmas party, as we can’t remember the last time everyone was together.”
Making employees feel involved in what their workplace is doing and becoming part of it brings a sense of togetherness and belonging, and Antonio shares why it is one of the reasons why NOVOS became employee-owned.
Antonio’s advice for those wanting to implement a cash bonus this year is: “The most important thing is to get input from your employees first on the best way to communicate the question, as the one thing you don’t want to do is implement something that is beneficial for them, but then deliver it all wrong, so the least we as employers can do is listen to them, get them involved, and keep them motivated. It’s the right thing to do.”
“It’s also important to make the decision as soon as possible, as this will allow you to manage and plan ahead of time. The later you leave it, the more likely it is that you will end up making rushed decisions that could have a significant impact on both your business and employees, so my advice is to plan effectively and execute promptly.”