Nick Gold, MD of speaker bureau, Speaker's Corner

To some extent, every day that passes brings more confidence that life is coming back to normal. We seem to feel more comfortable meeting up in-person, making future plans and rekindling relationships which maybe have waned over the last 20 months.

Yet, at the same time, every day brings new questions, new doubts and new challenges.  What does winter look like for society, how will the flu season impact our socialisation, have we got some structure into our working week and how are we navigating this new working environment, both as individuals but also within the company or even sector that we work within.

As the light draws in and the days get colder, there is an air of anticipation in the air as our focus turns to the festive season. After all, we need to make up for the lack of a party season last year.  Businesses reacted last year with stoicism and pragmatism by creating a whole new world of virtual celebrations and found ways to celebrate with each other in the new environment they found themselves in.

But there was an understandable emptiness about it all. The pandemic has made us realise that, for all the benefits and positivity around the virtual world, being in the room with other people creates an environment which fully brings the best out of us as a sociable species.  As such, this Christmas brings a chance for us to embrace the party season and for businesses to look to reward and bring together their teams so we can revel in the moment and for some brief moments, put aside the experiences of the pandemic and be present with people that we have shared experiences that none of us ever thought we would be involved or nor ever want to return to.

This aspirational plan must be treated with an air of pragmatism and realism.  The spectre of what comes next hangs over us, the vagueness of the politicians and plans to deal with the future, the knowledge that even with the success of the vaccine, the pandemic has the very real threat that ‘freedom day’ and all that it bought could very realistically be diluted back.  There is a lurking suspicion that our freedom could take on a different shape as society comes together to deal with the fluidity that we have learnt to embrace with the lifecycle of the pandemic.

For party planners, this means optimism and pragmatism must come together. The joy of being together in person should be embraced alongside the joy of having everyone present together.  Embracing the virtual celebration alongside in-person activities is both hedging your bets but also, and possibly more importantly, ensuring that everyone will get a chance to celebrate and embrace the festive spirit, whatever the circumstances, both as a society but also as individuals and our experiences and feelings towards what makes us feel comfortable.

After all, isn’t this what the working hybrid model was meant to deliver? A structure which, once fully matured, should give both individuals as well as teams and companies, an environment which delivers the best possible solution without the need for compromise.

For a company with employees based in multiple locations and with flexibility for individuals as to their working practices, the myriad of options for virtual celebrations and activities coupled with the learnings of the logistical challenges of delivering ‘party goodies’ to individuals attending virtual celebrations means that this year’s virtual celebrations will continue to step up and offer experiences which will live long in people’s memories and conversations.

Combining this with smaller, maybe team based, in person celebrations means that the joy of being in the room with others is there to experience.  Especially if, as is likely, the individual teams might have been already together as part of the return to the office environment.  For those, who have different feelings to others about the re-normalisation of being around others, these smaller gatherings will enable degrees of comfort for most of society as we all find our own path through the challenges that have faced us over the last 20 month.

This is the aspiration for the festive celebrations this year, the chance to celebrate together in person but also the chance to celebrate together as a bigger collective virtually.  It means no-one misses out, (it could even lead to some double celebrations!) but for all there is an appreciation that we need to embrace these moments.  We need to savour and rejoice in these excuses to have a celebration, to have a party, to feel happiness as we, as individuals, as teams, as society have missed it too much since Covid-19 came into our lives.