How to Throw the Ultimate Work Holiday Party

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• 6 minute read

It’s not just a Holiday party – a soirée could boost your business profits, too. A study by BrightHR found fun at work increases productivity, reduces absence and lowers levels of stress. Employees who have fun at work are more likely to report feeling committed to their organization and more likely to report feeling creative at work, and they’re less likely to take sick days. A party for your team to celebrate the holidays is a great way for employees to bond and strengthen relationships with coworkers, with positive effects carrying over once employees are back at work.

Throwing the best company Holiday party ever requires thoughtful planning. Here are some tips for putting on a holiday event for your business that employees will remember fondly for years to come.

1. Plan Your Budget

Ideally, this step will have happened at the beginning of the work year, so you ensure you have enough to spend come holiday party planning time. You’ll want to take into account:

  • Number of attendees, including if you’ll allow employees to bring a guest or entire families to the party
  • Venue
  • Food and drink options
  • Decorations
  • Entertainment recommends budgeting at least $75 per person for a work holiday party. To save money, you can choose to have a holiday party at lunch or on a non-weekend night. You could also work with vendors you have a relationship with to nab a discount, skip an outside venue and hold the party at your office, use an iPod for music instead of a DJ, or implement a whole host of other budget-friendly holiday party ideas.

2. Ask Employees for Input

Make employees feel like they’re a part of the party-planning by asking them what they want at the party. You can use a free survey creator like Google Forms to send out some questions regarding the planning, including the best time to host the party, employee guest policies and venue suggestions.

You should definitely ask for employee feedback regarding the menu. Your employees may have certain dietary restrictions or preferences, so having diverse food that everyone will enjoy is key.

You may also find that familial obligations influence what type of party your employees want. For example, if most of your employees have kids, they might want a party at a kid-friendly venue, so they can save money on having to hire a baby-sitter if they want to attend.

3. Scope Out Venues

Where you have your party can make or break its success. Some venues will have professionals working for them to take care of decorations and set-up, while others will give you free reign to decorate (which also might save you money). When looking at venues, consider:

  • How much seating you need
  • How central the location is compared to where the majority of your employees live
  • Space for entertainment, like a dance floor or DJ
  • How the venue can accommodate decorations for a specific theme

Some small businesses choose to host a festive get-together at the office. If you are considering this, and you’re hosting the party during work hours where attendance is mandatory, you must pay your employees for attending the Holiday party.

Also, be aware, if you serve alcohol at an office Holiday party, you open your business up to liability. If an employee is injured at work, you will likely be facing a worker’s compensation claim. You should take your workplace alcohol guidelines into account when planning any Holiday party, which brings us to the next point.

4. Determine the Presence of Alcohol

More than 10 percent of businesses will experience an employee lawsuit at some point, according to the Millea Law Firm. Don’t let your Holiday party put employees or your business in danger. Whether or not to serve alcohol is a key consideration. You want to make the party festive but keep it safe, so keep these factors in mind.

  • Don’t let employees get drunk – One way to avoid this is to work with a licensed alcohol provider. Bartenders should not serve employees who appear intoxicated. You might want to hand out a set number of drink tickets or host a cash bar so employees drink less.
  • Arrange for transportation – You might not be able to get cabs for all your employees, but you could arrange for a discount code for a ride-sharing service like Lyft or Uber. Or, choose a venue that is close to public transportation. If you see that an intoxicated employee is leaving and plans on driving home, call them a cab.
  • Only serve beer and wine – Mixed drinks, or something like spiked punch, make it harder for employees to determine just how much they’re drinking. If you limit what you serve to beer and wine, it’s easier to monitor how much alcohol is being consumed.

To protect your business further, at any party where you’re serving alcohol, make it crystal-clear that the party is not mandatory and that no business will be conducted during it. You can have employees sign a waiver where they agree they are liable for their behavior and will accept appropriate consequences, so they’re more likely to monitor their alcohol use.

5. Make It Fun and Festive 

If the holiday party is purely for employee enjoyment and not to do any business, make that clear to employees. Include games and activities at the party to help employees break the ice and get to know coworkers they may not interact with regularly. You could also host a raffle with prizes employees are interested in, so they get excited about winning and look forward to the results throughout the party.

Another way to spread cheer at your Holiday party is to set up a photo booth with props. Your employees can take a memory of the party home with them and get creative in their mini-photo shoots.

You also might want to consider a recognition portion for your Holiday party, though it’s important to not make any employees feel excluded. You could choose silly award themes to avoid competition or bitterness. Or if your team is small enough, you could hand out a meaningful award to every single team member.

Remind employees of office etiquette guidelines before the party kicks off. Employees should be discouraged from bringing questionable gag gifts to a party, or something like mistletoe that could make coworkers feel uncomfortable.

Once the party is over, send out another survey asking employees what they thought of it. Their responses can help you plan better for next year.