Everyone knows a story of an office party that turned awkward or inappropriate, and it’s tempting to wonder if it’s worth putting all that time and work into an event that could go horribly wrong! But taking the time to show you appreciate your employees is ideal for staff retention and general morale – it’s worth throwing a holiday party. Just follow the tips below to make sure everyone can party responsibly and still have an excellent time.
1 – Make sure your whole workforce feels welcome
It should go without saying that you invite all of your staff to the holiday party – but making sure they all feel truly appreciated doesn’t end there. For example, holding your office party in the evening and dancing into the early hours might sound great – but for your employees who have kids and will need to find a babysitter, that could be an expensive (not to mention exhausting!) night of semi-mandatory fun.
If a lot of your employees have caring responsibilities, maybe consider holding the office festivities during what would usually be working hours – you could even alternate between an evening party one year and an afternoon affair the following year. Not only will more of your staff be able to make it along, but they’ll feel more valued and appreciated because you took the time to include them.
On the subject of inclusion – you may have noticed that we’re using the phrase ‘holiday party’, rather than ‘Christmas party,’ and you should do the same. You may have employees who do not celebrate Christmas – some will be celebrating Hanukkah, another holiday or none at all – but it’s still their party too!
2 – Don’t hold the event in your workplace
It may be tempting to cut costs and save effort by just holding the office party in, well, the office (just like they do on The Office) but it’s usually a bad move. It’s hard to relax in the same environment where you work every day. It can make it particularly difficult for people who struggle to shift focus away from their workload (“Keep it down guys, I’ll be right with you after I send these six or seven emails real quick”). Not only that but office equipment and alcohol are a bad mix; and in the unlikely event that something does go wrong, there could be ramifications for your business if it happened on company property.
Instead, book an external venue that is easy for your employees to access (including wheelchair users, people who do not drive, and so on). Be sure to protect yourself by getting all the details of the event confirmed in writing beforehand, and bear in mind that the venue may require you to have liability insurance.
3 – Make it clear who can attend
What’s worse: being the only person who brought their partner to the party; being the partner; or being the employer who either has to pay for the partner’s food and drink or face the awkwardness of refusing?
It’s bad for everyone involved, but it’s easily preventable. When you send out information about the event, make sure you clearly state whether spouses, partners or dates are invited. The good news is that your party is likely to be tax deductible even if spouses or other family are on the guest list.
4 – Have a ‘mistletoe policy’
When some people hear ‘holiday party,’ they think ‘stationery closet hookup.’ Which can be a lot of fun…unless you have to spend the evening fending off inappropriate sexual advances from a coworker, or you spend the New Year dealing with the disciplinary action for getting involved in a prohibited office romance.No, we don’t necessarily mean you should ban festive smooching. If your workplace discourages employees from dating one another, make sure this is clear in writing in your employee handbook, which you can tactfully circulate in advance of the party. Even if you’re laid back about office relationships, your handbook should include firm reminders that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in your business. Make it known that anyone who experiences such harassment is encouraged to report it; and that their complaint will be taken seriously. It might not sound terribly festive, but consent and boundaries are important all year round.
No, we don’t necessarily mean you should ban festive smooching. If your workplace discourages employees from dating one another, make sure this is clear in writing in your employee handbook, which you can tactfully circulate in advance of the party. Even if you’re laid back about office relationships, your handbook should include firm reminders that sexual harassment will not be tolerated in your business. Make it known that anyone who experiences such harassment is encouraged to report it; and that their complaint will be taken seriously. It might not sound terribly festive, but consent and boundaries are important all year round.5 – Encourage safe driving
5 – Encourage safe driving
A not uncommon response to an office party invitation is: “Sigh. I suppose I should go. But I’m not going to have fun, so I’ll drive to the party, order a Diet Coke, and leave after twenty minutes.” The good news is that people often end up having more fun than they expected, and staying at the party. The OK-ish news is that they end up drinking more alcohol than they planned to. The bad news is that some of those people end up endangering themselves and the people around them by driving drunk.
If you have the budget for it, providing your employees with vouchers for Uber, Lyft or your friendly local cab firm is a thoughtful little holiday gift. If not, you should share cab numbers (or links to download taxi apps) along with the party invitations, and make it clear that the company does not tolerate drunk driving. If you think your employees are going to have trouble sticking to it, nominate a staff member to stay sober and call cabs at the end of the night – it’s not the most fun job, but it is one of the most important.
Looking back to tip #2, you could host the party in a hotel’s banquet hall. Group discounts may be available if enough employees decide to sleep at the hotel on the night of the party.
So it turns out throwing a holiday party that is safe and pleasant for all your employees is not as simple as buying a keg and a crate of chips. But embrace the challenge! Paying attention to the details we’ve listed here will help you throw a memorable occasion that will leave your employees feeling happy, appreciated, and ready to face the New Year.