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How to host a fun (but professional and responsible) office holiday party

Last updated on December 8th, 2015 at 03:55 pm

Everyone loves a holiday party…except the people who organize them.

Having to deal with different tastes and lifestyles while trying to be fun and responsible can make the holiday party a fierce creature.

In theory, holiday parties are an opportunity to celebrate successes and recognize employees for their efforts and achievements.

But holiday parties can also be a major challenge logistically and economically. It can difficult, if not impossible, to create an event that pleases everyone.

Some employees, for example, are uncomfortable attending a raucous party with an open bar in which everyone decides to let their hair down for several hours.

And there are people who look at an evening party as an inconvenience because it takes away from personal and family time. It forces them to spend even more hours with fellow workers, beyond the Monday to Friday, nine-to-five hamster wheel.

Sheri Moore, a partner and creative director with MCC Planners, says holiday parties can be a bewildering experience for anyone involved in organizing them.

“You have to figure out how much you want to spend, who’s involved, whether it’s employee-only or whether partners are invited. If you do it on-site, it means asking your people to do the work.”

Although there are many options for holiday parties, Moore says the most important consideration is making sure people enjoy themselves – whether they are a party animal or teetotaller.

Moore has worked with clients who have injected fun into holiday parties by holding ugly holiday sweater contests. One of her clients avoided the holiday theme completely by hosting a Venetian masquerade party. And many companies are big on photo booths, which is no surprise given the fascination (obsession?) with selfies.

When the office goes big on booze

So what about alcohol, which is how many holiday parties go off track when employees over-indulge and the corporate veneer disappears.

Moore says companies have to be professional and responsible. A holiday party is not an excuse to encourage behaviour that would be discouraged for the other 364 days of year.

Moore identifies drinking as the biggest obstacle to navigate because most people partake in a few beers, and maybe they are not used to getting their buzz on.

“I think it’s fine as long as you have taxi chits or designated drivers so if people go a little bit more wild than usual, they have a safety net,” she said. “You have a personal responsibility that if you set up the environment to be festive, there has to be a plan to take care of them.”

Go inclusive

In many respects, the holiday party should reflect the corporate culture. One of the most important approaches, Moore said, is making the party inclusive and making everyone comfortable so it is a positive experience.

Moore says many companies, for example, emphasize corporate values by calling their parties “Year-end celebrations”.

“If you care about your employees, you will never go in the wrong direction,” she says. “You should be sensitive about who they are and what they believe in. If you are true to your corporate values, you will never go wrong.”

A strong corporate ethos can also conveyed by ensuring all employees are included in the holiday party, even if they are unable to attend. Moore says employees who work in other locations be sent gift cards to restaurants so they can be rewarded for their efforts.

Do you other tips for hosting a great office party? Let us know in the comments section below

Photo via Flickr, Creative Commons


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Mark Evans
Mark Evans
Mark Evans help startups and fast-growing companies tell better stories (aka marketing). His strength is delivering “foundational” strategic and tactical services, specifically core messaging, brand positioning, marketing strategies and content creation. Find him via his blog