When Boris announced that the UK would begin its slow emergence from lockdown this summer, I had hoped to bring the whole team together for a big party to thank them for their extraordinary hard work and resilience over the past year and a half.
Having missed the last two parties and our mid-season events, my team here began planning our much-loved summer soiree. It’s one of the highlights in the BigChange calendar, bringing together colleagues from the UK, France, the Ukraine – all over. It’s an opportunity for teammates who are spread across different countries and continents to meet in person and have a chat and a drink.
I won’t lie to you: I was very much looking forward to hosting the soiree this year.
But I think that in the light of the news that the vaccine rollout is unlikely to be completed by the end of June, we are going to have to cancel yet again.
It’s a bitter pill to swallow. These parties are an incredible morale booster for all of us. I usually host it at my house, and it’s an opportunity for me to speak to every single person on the team. It’s where friendships are forged and common ground found. It’s also a wonderful tool for creating inter-team connections, making it so much easier to pull together brilliant people from every discipline on new projects – all because they bonded at the work party.
Cancelling may seem over-cautious. After all, we were planning to take every precaution. The party was to be held outdoors. We would have lateral flow testing in place. But with all the talk of new variants, and the slowdown in the vaccine rollout, and messages from the government asking us all to “be sensible”, I have to ask myself: is it sensible?
As an employer, I feel entirely responsible for the health of my team when they are attending a work event. Even if everyone did a lateral flow test, the false negative rate can be as high as 30%. If you have 200 people at a party, that means that 60 people could potentially carry the virus and be contagious yet have no idea. Vaccine passports are a hot political potato right now but I wouldn’t like to demand one to attend a party. It’s supposed to be fun and inclusive for all.
And then there’s the travel issue. I want to fly the whole team over for the soiree. I can’t leave out colleagues just because they are on a red or amber list. That would be grossly unfair on them.
I’m worried that cancelling the soiree will have a negative impact on everyone’s mental health. We’ve been working remotely for so long now. I know that, like me, my colleagues have been looking forward to a BigChange reunion. We still talk fondly of the last bash, two years ago, with the Queen tribute band.
I guess another one bites the dust…
Let’s just hope we can have a Christmas party in seven months, eh?