A holiday party for your company is a great way to let employees relax, have fun, and get to know each other better. A party can encourage team bonding as well as let employees from different departments who may not interact on a day to day basis socialize with each other. It’s also a nice way to thank employees for their hard work through the year, and many companies will fold in awards, special thanks, or holiday gifts or bonuses with the holiday party to make it that much more exciting.
Here are a few tips for improving your company holiday party.
Planning is Key
Like any other big event, make sure you plan it! A holiday party sounds easy – just throw together some food, some music, and you’re done, right? Wrong! If you’re providing food, you need to account for any specialty diets. If you’re providing drinks, are you providing alcohol, and if so, is it open bar or cash bar? If you’re providing a special dessert, who’s making it and what kind will it be? In fact, who’s making any of your food?
Location is crucial if you plan to have the party outside of your office. Many locations book months in advance, and December is a popular time for parties in general. Plan to book a location and secure your spot during the summer months if at all possible. If you wait until the autumn to book a venue, be prepared to shop around or be turned down. If you need to wait until closer to December to book your location, it’s a good idea to have a plan B in mind already so you aren’t scrambling at the last minute, or forced to host a larger party in a small space.
These questions and many more will come up in the process of planning your party, so it’s best to start early. You may want to have an events committee as well to help take on tasks so that no one person is doing everything.
If you’re planning a large party and you don’t have an in-house events coordinator, consider hiring an event planner to help get things organized.
Your employees are invited, of course, but who else do you want to invite? What’s the goal of your holiday party?
If your goal is strictly to honor employees, you may want to limit the party just to your employees and maybe their families. If your party is more open to celebrating the business or a general end of the year party, consider inviting business partners, networking associates, colleagues outside the business, or potential clients or partners.
Once you decide, make sure it’s clear on the invitation who can come. Language such as “All employees and their families are invited – children welcome!” would cover all bases for most people. Also make it clear to whom questions and RSVPs should be directed.
Holiday Gift Exchange
A gift exchange for the office sounds like fun – but account for the length of the exchange when you’re picking the game! I know of one case where the office decided to do a White Elephant exchange one year and it took over an hour to get through all the gifts because of the number of people who decided to participate. While it could be fun, it’s maybe not the best use of your party time.
White Elephant is more fun for a smaller group, but it can be used by larger offices. Secret Santa can be fun, although it has been less popular as a choice for office gift exchanges. For this one, you may want to allow departments to do their own Secret Santa so that employees who know each other better will be more likely to choose gifts the person wants.
A Grab Bag could be a practical but fun gift exchange that’s similar to the White Elephant but without the potential for a too-long game. With Grab Bag, everyone who wants to participate brings a wrapped gift, which is put into a large opaque bag. Then the participants pull a gift from the bag on their turn based on how it feels and unwrap it. There’s no stealing in this game, so what you get is what you get.
Keep Diverse Backgrounds in Mind
A holiday party for your company is a fantastic idea. But you don’t want to accidentally alienate any of your employees or make them feel unwelcome. When choosing decorations or a theme, keep the diversity of your employees in mind. My recommendation is to either honor all the backgrounds represented by your employees, or none. For example, it’s likely that your holiday party isn’t going to be on Christmas itself, so rather than having the party be a “Christmas party”, it’s OK to leave it as a “holiday party” or “winter holiday party”. This also allows the party to be a simple celebration of the end of the year and keep it lighthearted and non-specific to any one tradition.