'Tis the season to show your employees how much they are appreciated and to celebrate the successes of the past year. The office holiday party can be a memorable, exciting event that can help boost morale, forge stronger relationships between employees, and help workers feel valued and appreciated. Without the proper planning beforehand, however, the event can be a big dud.
Here are some helpful tips to ensure that this year's event is more merry than scary:
- Pick a convenient party date early on. For most people, the holiday season is a stressful time chock-full of endless events, family visits, shopping excursions, and school performances, with little free time to spare. To ensure your company's holiday fete is a happy and pleasant affair, make sure to give your employees adequate advance notice of when the party will be held and request they save the date. Consider holding the party during office hours so that you won't be competing with other holiday events and obligations they may have. Just be mindful that many folks take off early to beat the holiday travel rush, so a date earlier in December is usually a better choice than one too close to the end of the month.
- Choose a convenient location. If your goal is to show your staffers how much you appreciate their hard work during the past year, do them a favor by making it as easy as possible to get to the company party. Choose a location close to the office, such as a local restaurant or function hall, or a site in a location you are sure everyone is familiar with. (You might even consider holding it in your home. In that case, be sure to read Hosting a Holiday Party for Your Colleagues.) If you do decide to hold the party in the office, make sure it's in an area of the building that is conducive to social gatherings. Be sure to clear away all the office paraphernalia beforehand, as nothing will kill the celebratory mood quicker than a party room that looks like it's about to host a board meeting.
- Don't skimp on the decorations. Be sure the atmosphere says "party" by investing the time, energy, and money on the decorations. Party supply stores have endless options for inexpensive decorating, while nurseries and flower shops stock all kinds of seasonal flowers and plants that can lend color and flair to the décor. The Internet is a great source for party decorating ideas. (Check out the popular Web-based invitation site Evite, which provides a lot of free, creative party planning ideas.) Your holiday party is a once-a-year affair; make it a special day for your staff by creating a party space that looks the part.
- Keep it nondenominational. To guarantee that your employees all feel equally welcome and included in the holiday celebration, avoid those decorations, practices, or food and drink that lean too far toward any one religious tradition. You can keep things seasonal by going sparkly and festive — a good guideline would be to make your gathering centered around the theme of "winter." The idea is to ensure that each and every one of your staffers feels equally celebrated and honored by the festivities.
- Provide ample food and drink to meet all dietary needs. Be sure that the food and beverages you plan to serve encompass the full range of your staff's dietary needs and preferences. Consider adding a line at the bottom of your party invitation instructing people to advise you of any special dietary needs they might have. Generally speaking, it's a good practice to have a wide range of vegetarian selections, which can be eaten and enjoyed by all. If you do plan on serving alcohol, be sure to provide plenty of soft drinks, juices, and bottled waters for the nondrinkers to enjoy. Lastly, be sure there's plenty of everything to go around.
- Indicate what the recommended attire should be. Party guests always appreciate knowing of any dress code requirements or recommendations beforehand. For holiday office parties and year-end seasonal gatherings, "festive," "business casual," or "cocktail" attire is usually the norm. To ensure your staff can relax and enjoy the fun, save the formal attire requests for when the company celebrates some kind of milestone with a gala affair.
- Keep an eye out for your employees. For the most part, this means watching out for anyone celebrating a little too hard with the cocktails. You should always use caution when serving alcohol at a work-sponsored event, both to protect your employees and to avoid putting your company at risk for costly litigation (if, for example, a party guest should leave the event intoxicated and have an automobile accident). A responsible employer will watch out for the visibly inebriated and ensure that they have a safe and reliable way to get home from the party.