Organisational Development


Virtual Shindig and the power of laughter: the answer to your works xmas do!

Ladies and gentlemen, hands up who needs a night of fun? It has been soooooo long since we’ve all been out, right? I long for the days when we could go to a comedy club, watch stand-up and just laugh the night away. Who else remembers that?!

I miss treating myself to a lunch out with a colleague, having a chat, a chuckle and leaving work at the office for a bit. Wouldn’t post-work dinner and drinks be glorious right about now (!) as the start of the holiday season begins . . . 

Colourfully-lit Christmas trees are appearing in people’s windows and sparkly outdoor lights brighten the dark December skies. It fills me hope, but I also really miss people and miss doing fun things. [Quietly weeps!] Who’s with me in that?

I’m realising we need to do everything we possibly can to lift our spirits. We need to get creative, find work-arounds and plan some fun activities! 

That’s why I’m so excited to talk to you about Virtual Shindig: Enact Solutions’ absolutely brilliant, creative answer, to this year’s works xmas do! 

Virtual Shindig is a virtual night out, from the comfort and safety of your own home! It’s a chance for organisations to celebrate their employees’ phenomenal work and thank them for their incredible efforts this year. It’s 90 minutes of good old-fashioned fun – we’re talking a festive extravaganza filled with comedy, interactive games, awards and a few surprise celebrity appearances! 

Are you hooked yet? 

Virtual Shindig is all about the feel-good factor you get from watching a xmas show or film. The power of group laughter to create joy, facilitate wellbeing and connection. All our work at Enact Solutions is rooted in science and Virtual Shindig is no different. Laughter is increasingly being studied by the scientific community as the fascinating health and psychological benefits laughter brings emerges . . .

Laughter is wonderful for stress relief‘, because it reduces cortisol (stress hormone), anxiety, depression and releases endorphins in the brain. It also ‘makes you more open to new people and helps you build and strengthen relationships.’ – Psychology Today.

This means that work activities which facilitate laughter, not only contribute positively to mental health, but are perfect team-building and bonding exercises for colleagues. ‘Laughing together is something that improves team collaboration and stimulates innovation. It makes us feel more bonded as a team and as a consequence our creative guards come down, leading to more expansive idea generation.’ – BBC News

Stanford University Lecturer, Naomi Bagdonas who has been studying comedy for 5 years has this to say: “Some people believe this is too serious a time to laugh, but this is when we need humour more than ever. With this global pandemic, the shift to remote working, loneliness and depression rising precipitously, many of us have never felt so disconnected. When we laugh with someone – whether through a screen or 2m apart – we get this cocktail of hormones that strengthens our emotional bonds in a way that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. Studies show it makes us more resilient, creative and resourceful.” – The Guardian. 

We have endured so much this year, both professionally and personally and we need a way to release this tension. Virtual Shindig has been designed to be an evening of light-hearted banter. It’s a tonic of an event, which connects team-members through laughter and builds resilience. We’re delighted to see so many companies booking Virtual Shindig under their staff wellbeing budgets.

We’ve organised everything, so you don’t need to worry about a thing. The normal stresses of which venue to pick and what menu to choose are now obsolete! Your company will come together in the best way we know how (yes that’s Zoom in 2020!) and have some feel-good, festive fun.

We’ve got laugh-out-loud topical sketches, performed by outstanding actors. There’ll be competitions, quizzes and prizes. And we’ll personalise everything, tailoring your works xmas do specifically to your workplace. It’s about bringing your employees together in a team celebration, with interactive shoutouts and in-jokes galore. Work friends will kick back, relax, have a giggle and a good time together.

So who are the hosts? Only the brilliant, comedic, double act: Tam Ryan and Marvyn Dickinson – you might recognise them off the telly! Both have appeared in Coronation Street and between them have starred in Emmerdale, Cold Feet, Waterloo Road etc.

Tam and Marv have a strong background in comedy and will be mixing the world of work with panto, bringing you a brilliantly bonkers evening, chock-full of comedy craic! They’ve got tons of experience, having appeared in many a theatre production and stand-up. Tam most recently played Buddy in the hit comedy, ‘Elf The Musical’, starring alongside Kym Marsh and Martine McCutcheon! 

Can you feel your xmas spirit growing?!

For one week only Tam will be revising his role in ‘Elf The Musical’ in Blackpool, so we have the amazing Lee Toomes joining Marv for our comedy double act. Lee recently toured in ‘The Full Monty’, is often seen on TV, including Peaky Blinders and Shameless and is a panto regular!

Have we mentioned that we’re raising money for charity too?! For every booking, we’ll be donating £50 to the wonderful charity ‘500 Acts of Kindness‘, founded by national treasure Julie Hesmondhalgh, aka Corrie’s beloved Hayley Cropper!

500 Acts of Kindness is: ‘A fundraising group where 500 people donate a pound a week to give £500 to a person, family or organisation in need.’ It was set up in 2017 by Julie and her friend Chris Malvern and since then has raised close to £100,000 in donations. As this inews article explains, donations have helped: ‘women fleeing domestic violence, bereaved parents and families overwhelmed by rent arrears.’ We’re super proud to be supporting it, especially at a time when so many people have been financially devastated by the pandemic. 

The performing arts industry has also been hit very hard this year. Virtual Shindig is a way for us to offer our talented creative freelancers work, at a time when many of their Christmas tours have sadly been cancelled. They are the heart of our organisation and we’re so excited to be working with them on this project. 

Leading on and the visionary behind Virtual Shindig is none other than Helen Lacey, author of ‘Let’s Talk to Mummy’s Tummy’ and Enact Solutions’ Creative Producer! Helen’s spark for Virtual Shindig ignited in September after she saw how many shows and work events were being cancelled. Concerned about the impact on peoples’ resilience and wellbeing and being passionate about bringing lightness and laughter into people’s lives, Virtual Shindig blazed into being!

It’s been non-stop since then as we’ve been making creative content, promoting Virtual Shindig and receiving lots of bookings! We’ve chatted with Kaye Adams on BBC Radio Scotland, appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Somerset and been interviewed by the BBC Business Website team! 

“This is something that will bring work colleagues together in laughter, you know, just proper belly laughs, that’s what we’re really aiming for,” said Helen Lacey on BBC News.

As well as fun and frolics, Virtual Shindig is about something special – offering companies a way to say a heartfelt thank you to their teams, for all the work they’ve done under incredibly challenging circumstances in 2020. With big, gold, BAFTA style envelopes, we’ll be announcing winners of special awards and celebrating individual and collaborative successes! It’s a celebratory end-of-year works party which reflects on and honours staff for everything they have achieved this year.

As CIPD says: ‘Christmas can be a great opportunity for employers to reward staff for their hard work and show they are valued. It’s also a chance for co-workers to relax and socialise with each other, which can boost morale and engagement.’

Virtual Shindig runs from 9th December 2020 to mid/late January 2021. Companies can choose whether to finish 2020 on a high, or kick start the new year with a fun event! We have time slots throughout the day and evening, but if our times don’t suit, please get in touch and we’ll try our best to accommodate you. We’re receiving bookings every day, so don’t delay!

We can facilitate groups of all different sizes, from 30 employees up to 600! Prices start from £1500 depending on group size and don’t forget staff parties can be a tax deductible expense!

After booking your Virtual Shindig, all you need to do is pop on your xmas hat, wrap some tinsel round your shoulders and let us entertain you!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and New Year,

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She’s been blogging for us on a number of topics and is really passionate about raising awareness and having conversations on resilience and well-being.


‘It Was Truly…. Awful’: Witnessing Workplace Bullying

Bullying, Harassment & IncivilityI recently wrote about the difficult conversations we are having of late and how to turn these into more productive communication. One such topic, which can be very difficult to talk about, is bullying, harassment, and incivility in the workplace. As with anything, the more we talk about it, the easier it becomes to discuss. So with that in mind…

…Let’s look at and discuss the data first. HR Magazine wrote a bullying and harassment article in 2015 referencing research conducted by Acas (Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service). ‘Acas estimates that workplace bullying costs the UK economy almost £18 billion per year in absence, staff turnover and lost productivity.’ – Seeking better solutions: tackling bullying and ill-treatment in Britain’s workplaces.

This is a shocking amount of money, especially given the state of the economy at the moment: “The UK economy suffered its biggest slump on record between April and June [2020] as coronavirus lockdown measures pushed the country officially into recession.” – BBC News article. 

Whilst workplace bullying and harassment carries a hefty price-tag, it’s nothing compared to the human cost, as Acas explains: ‘Research has found that people bullied at work can experience a range of psychological and physical health problems, often affecting their relationships with family and friends, and for some, resulting in post-traumatic stress disorders.’

Witnessing bullying behaviours also carries a cost. Acas’ research indicates that, ‘those who witness bullying and its impacts may be equally affected.’

What’s most upsetting though, is the severity workplace bullying can cause: ‘In more extreme cases, helpline advisers reported that callers had related how workplace bullying led to them self-harming or contemplating suicide.’

And frighteningly, research suggests that the numbers are rising.

So how many people are experiencing it? Well the Trade Union Congress (TUC) conducted some research in this area in 2015. A poll carried out by YouGov for the TUC revealed ‘nearly a third of people (29%) have been bullied at work‘. It’s important to note that the sample size was relatively small at 1,738 adults, so more research is needed to see if this is representative across the UK workforce. Whatever the number though, we can all agree it’s too many and the price too high. 

Whilst the majority of organisations have dozens of policies, including on the topic of bullying and harassment, the problem with these documents is that they’re not often revisited. That’s why it’s important to have regular training, so that we can identify problematic behaviours when they occur, have a practised response for dealing with them and nip them in the bud.

I remember the first time I witnessed bullying in the workplace environment. Years ago, a manager started shouting at a staff-member, in the middle of an open plan office. The manager wanted to see a piece of work, but her employee had prioritised a separate report, for valid reasons. Regardless of the context, how the manager behaved was totally inappropriate. It was reminiscent of a parent losing their temper and full on screaming at their daughter.

It. Was. Truly…. Awful. I exchanged looks with nearby colleagues. I looked to older colleagues (I was in my twenties at the time), begging them silently to do something – to challenge the manager’s behaviour. However everyone just looked shocked and equally unsure what to do.

I considered interrupting the exchange, but wasn’t sure if this would make it worse? I was worried about the volatility of the manager… that she would find my interrupting her, unprofessional (!) and perhaps turn on me. Her anger was frightening. In moments like this, your thoughts race and it’s hard to know what to do in the moment.

The staff member looked deeply upset and uncomfortable during the rant. Embarrassment and shame flooded her face and you could see her willing the tirade to be over; much like we all were. Her chagrin (unjust at that) was awful to witness. As soon as the manager walked away, I emailed my colleague and asked how they were, stating how inappropriate the manager had been. She was grateful for my email. She said the relationship had been deteriorating, but she didn’t know why. She seemed resigned to that type of ‘communication’ from her boss and that she’d have to suffer through it. She felt her only other option was to perhaps look for another job. 

We spoke again, in person, the next day. A few colleagues had emailed her, which was nice, but it seemed no-one had spoken to the manager or reported it. I was shocked. Evidently the bystander effect was at play. The University of Portsmouth Research Portal explains that ‘diffusion of responsibility; audience inhibition and social influence’, are key factors which play into bystander reticence.

I’m a fairly passionate person; motivated strongly by ethics and I can’t bear injustice or unkindness. The incident kept replaying in my mind and I felt frustrated at the outcome. I was deeply upset for my colleague, so finally made an appointment with the department head to speak about the matter. 

It was a deeply uncomfortable conversation! I was nervous. I felt ‘inappropriate’, almost ‘wrong’ commenting on the behaviour of a more senior member of staff. I thought, ‘who am I, a more junior member of staff, to say a manager had behaved unacceptably?

You expect your managers to be professional, more knowledgeable, and to be ‘right’. So it was hard to stand up and say that something was amiss. That someone had been verbally abused. Bullied. These words carry weight. I had moments of doubt. Did I perceive it wrongly? Would the manager get in ‘too’ much trouble: a disciplinary note on their file? Thoughts whizzed through my head, right up to and during the meeting. 

Whilst the organisation was a great place to work – professional and liberal, I also worried that reporting it might affect my job; that I might be seen as someone ‘making waves’ and my fixed term contract not extended. 

The polarity of my thoughts was ridiculous. It’s because it was a new, uncomfortable and stressful experience for me. And one I had no experience in, so didn’t know how to navigate. 

I am so thankful that I stood up and said something. We’ve all had moments where we haven’t spoken up and regret it later. It can haunt you. It was the right thing to do for my colleague and they were grateful when I told them afterwards.

Experiencing bullying makes you vulnerable. It can leave indelible scars, if forced to face it alone. Active support and empathy from colleagues can increase a person’s self-efficacy and result in positive change within an organisation.

It was also a key learning moment for me. Whilst uncomfortable at the time, I feel that if I saw inappropriate behaviour like this again, I would address and challenge it more quickly; with less insecurity and more confidence.  

That’s why bullying and harassment policies aren’t enough. Organisations need to have regular and experiential training on these issues. You need to: 

  • practise establishing what constitutes bullying, harassment & incivility behaviour.
  • practise understanding the grey line between banter and bullying.
  • practise inner reflection, making sure you’re aware of your own behaviours and how they might be perceived.
  • practise challenging bullying, harassment or incivility, as this can be difficult to do.

In Enact Solutions’ Bullying, Harassment and Incivility Workshop, participants get to experience these inappropriate behaviours through fictional characters, in a realistic but safe environment. They see the impact bullying, harassment or incivility has on characters, through filmed and live interactive content. Crucially they get to practise working together to challenge the negative behaviours. 

In essence it’s about changing the culture to create a more collaborative and supportive environment, which in turn makes a healthier, happier and more productive workplace environment. And who doesn’t want that?

Thanks for reading.

Jemma Houghton


Jemma Houghton is one of our Associates at Enact Solutions. She works in a range of areas including research, writing, filming and workshop consultancy.