Happy Holidays! Holiday Party DOs and DON’Ts

Providing employees with a space to let their hair down and get to know each other can build much needed community in the office, encouraging collaboration and a positive work environment year-round.  That said, planning the company party can be anything but relaxed. The key to a successful holiday gathering is to facilitate a relaxed and fun environment while maintaining a professional atmosphere, and also keeping in mind potential liability.  When planning your company’s party, here are a few DOs and DON’Ts to keep in mind.

DO plan early!

Event planning can fall to the wayside, but it takes time! Give yourself and your team enough time to plan a creative and engaging holiday event.  When you begin your planning pick a theme, a venue, a budget, and a date/time. Setting these early will make things less complicated and will give you the opportunity to enjoy the celebration as much as your employees.

When setting a budget, think about food, drinks, and where you’ll be having your party. You want your employees to feel welcome, valued, and happy!  Planning ahead will give you the most bang for your buck and allow some wiggle room if things don’t work out as planned.

DO provide upfront, clear information to your employees.

Provide information to your employees about dress code, remind them of appropriate professional etiquette, ask for accommodation needs or dietary restrictions, and let them know if plus ones or children are allowed.  While a family affair might not be the right fit for your company, explicitly stating if those under 18 can attend can be helpful for parents considering bringing the kiddos along.

Additionally, a plus one might just keep your company party a little tamer. When an employee’s better half is present, they are less likely to drink excessively or say that not-so-appropriate comment to coworkers.  In addition, having outsiders present can deter conversations about the decrease of the Christmas bonus or increase of hours over the holidays.

DO encourage mingling!

In larger companies especially, employees can get locked in to their departments and the company party provides a much-needed opportunity to get to know people they might not interact with daily.  If your venue allows it, or you opt for an in-office party, one way to facilitate mingling is through ice breakers. Another way is to offer pre-arranged seating at dinner, sit people from various departments at the same table.

In addition to seating and activities, gift exchanges (great fit for employee only parties!) or donation-based activities offer a great opportunity for individuals to act together. Giving facilitates that altruistic feeling in individuals, making them more open to meeting new people and starting up conversations.

DON’T center your party around drinking.

With the holiday party often comes the open bar. While an open bar is a generous way to allow employees to let loose and get their drink of choice, it is important to ensure that employees are not encouraged to drink to excess. Some companies opt for drink tickets or limited drinks in place of an open bar, while others choose limited hours: closing the bar during dinner or prior to the end of the party.  Also consider stocking the bar with only wine and beer vs. liqueur.

The best way to discourage drinking to excess is to provide more than just drinking. Provide activities to capture the attention of your employees: ice breakers, holiday games, surprise gifts (small stocking stuffers can be a great idea!), or a silent auction for your favorite charity. Whatever you choose, the important thing is to provide an opportunity for employees to interact outside of the bar.

DON’T forget about employee safety!

This is particularly important when you are planning a party outside the office.  Limiting excessive drinking mitigates some risk, but the key to keeping your employees safe during and after the party is the venue.  Select a venue that has easy access to transportation (cabs, Uber, Lyft, etc.).  If it is in the budget, providing transportation is always an option but that can get pricy.  One low budget option is to reserve a block of rooms at a hotel within walking distance of the venue.  This will encourage employees to stay overnight, decreasing the risk of drinking and driving, especially if your employees are traveling far.

DON’T exclude employees

One of the most overlooked aspects of a holiday party is ensuring that your party is inclusive and welcoming to all.  Avoid “Christmas” themed parties; there are many options outside this theme that would be more inclusive to all employees. In addition, ensure your venue and menu are inclusive. Allow for a place for employees to specify accommodations or dietary restrictions. The last thing you want is an employee with a disability or food allergy to feel that they are unwelcome.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, opt for the option that allows you and all of your employees to enjoy the evening. When a party is inclusive, relaxed, and professional it will not only be an enjoyable event but show your employees they are valued and appreciated. This year, let your holiday party be the event that creates a space for community building and collaboration that lasts all year.

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