Is your business planning a company holiday party this year? If not, you’ve got plenty of company. According to Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc ., just 65% of companies plan to hold a holiday party this year — the lowest number since 2009.
That year, just 62% of businesses held holiday festivities — but the Great Recession was at its height and cutting costs was the primary reason for the “Bah, humbug” attitudes. What’s keeping employers from celebrating this year?
The #MeToo movement  is a likely culprit, according to the Challenger report, which found almost 60% of companies are concerned about inappropriate behavior at the office party. It’s also possible that with more remote, virtual or home-based employees, companies find it increasingly impractical to get everyone together for the event.
But not holding a holiday party is a real shame. Three-fourths of employees eagerly look forward to the annual company party, according to an Evite poll  of 2,000 office employees. And companies that are holding parties plan to spend the same as or more than last year, Challenger reports.
Ways to Keep Your Company Holiday Party Under Control
If you don’t want to be Scrooge this year, how can you hold a company holiday party that’s fun, festive and appropriate? Follow these tips.
Focus on what employees care about. Socializing with coworkers and eating good food are the top things employees look forward to at the holiday party, Evite found. Create an environment where there’s plenty of time to talk and interact, and provide plenty of food (which also helps keep employees who imbibe from getting drunk).
Clarify expectations. If you haven’t already discussed sexual and other forms of harassment with your staff, do so before the party. (Some 37% of employees in the Evite survey have witnessed co-workers kissing or otherwise getting romantic at their holiday party.) It’s also a good idea to send an email before the party reminding everyone of the standards you expect.
Control alcohol intake. According to Evite, 57% of company parties involve at least one employee drinking too much and/or getting sick from alcohol. There’s a growing trend toward moderation or not drinking at all, Drinks Business  reports — so you may not even need to serve liquor. If you do decide to provide alcohol, find out what your liability issues are beforehand, and limit overindulgence by issuing drink tickets, serving alcohol only for a short time, and hiring professional bartenders who can tell when someone is at risk of being overserved. You can also cover Uber or cab fares for employees.
Make it a family affair. Inviting spouses and children to the holiday party is a great way to reduce inappropriate behavior and excessive drinking. Consider treating the party more like a company picnic, with a daytime venue, a more casual atmosphere, and family-friendly activities like face painting, storytelling or making holiday crafts to keep the kids entertained. (If you’re hiring entertainment, such as a comedian, clown, band or DJ, check beforehand to make sure their set is family-friendly, with no suggestive music or potentially offensive jokes.)
Focus on fun experiences. Traditional holiday office parties can get kind of boring — and employees are less likely to get into trouble when there are planned activities to participate in. Hold silly games and contests, like an Ugly Christmas/Hanukkah Sweater competition, and offer prizes.
Involve remote employees. If your remote employees aren’t close enough to come to the party, there are still ways to make them feel part of the celebration. Use video conferencing to share speeches and toasts at the party. Create some contests they can participate in from a distance; for example, they can post photos of their ugly Christmas sweaters. Share photos of the party online so remote employees can see the fun. Finally, since you aren’t spending money on remote employees’ food and drink at the event, it’s thoughtful to send them a “care package” full of goodies or a gift card they can use to have some holiday fun on their own.
The company holiday party may have changed, but it’s still a tradition worth keeping. By following the steps above, you can ensure a party that’s fun for everyone.
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