How to Keep Your Company Holiday Party Under Control

keep your company holiday party under control

As the holidays approach, businesses everywhere are thinking about the best way to celebrate the end of the year and lift team morale. One key challenge is ensuring that your company holiday party doesn’t spin out of control. You want to host a festive, safe, and inclusive event for everyone. However, what’s the best way to go about it? Addressing this challenge head-on, we’ve put together this guide on how to keep your company holiday party under control. With it, you’ll ensure your celebration is remembered for all the right reasons.

Keeping Your Company Holiday Party Under Control

Holiday parties boost morale and celebrate the year’s hard work. That said, it’s important to keep them fun, safe, and welcoming for everyone. You must find the right balance between celebration and order.

Workplaces have changed. More people work from home, and everyone is more aware of how they should behave at company events. Planning your party means thinking about these new trends. You want a party where everyone feels included and can enjoy themselves.

Focus on what employees look forward to at these parties, like connecting with colleagues and enjoying good food. Make sure you set clear rules about what behavior is okay. Remember to include your remote workers in the celebrations, too.

By paying attention to these details, you can throw a holiday party that’s fun for everyone and still keeps things under control. This way, your celebration will make everyone feel valued and part of the team.

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 Changing Dynamics of Holiday Parties

In the past, some businesses hesitated to host holiday parties due to various concerns, one of which was highlighted by the #MeToo movement.

Furthermore, with the rise of remote work, many companies found it challenging to coordinate gatherings that included both in-office and virtual employees. This shift in workplace dynamics and the logistics of organizing such events have added layers of complexity to the tradition.

keep your company holiday party under control

The Value of In-Person Holiday Parties

Yet, with this excitement also comes the challenge of adapting to these new dynamics. There’s a renewed sense of anticipation for these gatherings, as for many, it marks a return to camaraderie and direct social interaction after long periods of virtual meetings and isolation.

Emphasizing Diversity and Inclusion

Creating an inclusive holiday party means ensuring every employee feels welcomed, valued, and respected. In today’s diverse workforce, acknowledging and celebrating differences is key to fostering an inclusive environment.

Here are strategies to emphasize diversity and inclusion in your company holiday party:

  • Cultural Representation: Incorporate elements that reflect the diverse cultures and backgrounds of your team. This can be achieved through multicultural decorations, music, and entertainment that celebrate various traditions.
  • Inclusive Menu Selection: Offer a variety of food options catering to different dietary needs and preferences, including vegetarian, vegan, halal, kosher, and gluten-free choices. This thoughtful consideration ensures everyone can enjoy the meal.
  • Neutral Decorations and Themes: Choose decorations and party themes that are inclusive and non-specific to any single religious or cultural celebration. Themes such as “Winter Wonderland” or “End of Year Celebration” are festive yet neutral.
  • Educational Component: Consider incorporating an educational segment into the event, such as a brief presentation on different winter holidays around the world, to foster understanding and appreciation of cultural diversity.
  • Feedback and Suggestions: Prior to the event, solicit feedback and suggestions from employees on how to make the holiday party more inclusive. This direct input can provide valuable insights and demonstrate that you value their perspectives.

Leveraging Technology for Virtual Participation

As remote work becomes more common, ensuring virtual team members feel included in holiday festivities is crucial. Leveraging technology can help bridge the gap between in-person and remote participants, creating a unified celebration experience.

Here are ways to use technology for virtual participation in your company holiday party:

  • Live Streaming: Use live streaming platforms to broadcast the party to remote employees in real-time. Ensure the setup includes a view of the main event area and a way for remote participants to interact, such as through a chat feature.
  • Virtual Rooms: Create virtual breakout rooms for different activities, such as a holiday trivia game, a virtual escape room, or a cooking class. This allows remote employees to actively engage in the festivities and interact with colleagues.
  • Photo and Video Sharing: Encourage both in-person and remote attendees to share photos and videos of their holiday celebrations or themed attire in a shared online album or company social media group.
  • Interactive Polls and Contests: Organize polls, contests, or awards that remote employees can participate in, such as voting for the best-decorated home office or the most creative holiday dish.
  • Gift Exchange: Facilitate a virtual gift exchange through e-gift cards or online wish lists. This activity can help build camaraderie and spread holiday cheer among all employees, regardless of their location.

Showcasing Appreciation and Recognition

The holiday party is an opportune time to acknowledge the hard work and achievements of your team. Showing appreciation and recognizing employees’ contributions can significantly boost morale and reinforce your company’s culture of gratitude.

Here are ideas for showcasing appreciation and recognition during the holiday party:

  • Awards Ceremony: Host a brief awards ceremony to recognize outstanding achievements, milestones, and contributions over the past year. Consider creating unique award categories that align with your company values.
  • Personalized Gifts: Prepare personalized gifts or acknowledgments for each team member, highlighting their specific contributions or a memorable moment from the year. This personal touch can make employees feel truly valued.
  • Speeches and Toasts: Allocate time for speeches or toasts from leadership, expressing gratitude for the team’s hard work and resilience. Encouraging employees to share their own reflections or gratitude can also foster a sense of community.
  • Year-in-Review Presentation: Create a “year in review” presentation or video showcasing company highlights, team achievements, and fun moments from the year. This visual recap can be a powerful way to celebrate collective successes.
  • Peer Recognition: Implement a peer recognition segment where employees can acknowledge and thank their colleagues for support, teamwork, or specific accomplishments. This peer-to-peer appreciation can strengthen bonds within the team.

Embracing Tradition with a Modern Approach

Despite these challenges, not celebrating at all feels like a missed opportunity. After all, a vast majority of employees have traditionally looked forward to these annual gatherings.

These events serve as a chance to bond, appreciate each other’s efforts, and bid farewell to the year in a spirit of unity and joy.

It’s clear that the company holiday party, though steeped in tradition, needs a fresh approach to make it resonate with today’s workforce, keeping it enjoyable while addressing modern concerns.

keep your company holiday party under control

Keep Your Company Holiday Party Under Control: Checklist

As businesses gear up for the festive season, planning a successful company holiday party involves a mix of traditional elements and new considerations. Here’s a checklist to ensure that your holiday party remains memorable, enjoyable, and incident-free.

Employee InterestsEnsure ample opportunities for socializing and provide a variety of foods.
Setting ExpectationsCommunicate standards of behavior, especially regarding harassment.
Alcohol ManagementConsider moderation, provide drink tickets, hire professional bartenders.
TransportationCover transportation costs like Uber or cab fares to ensure safety.
Family InclusionInvite family members to minimize inappropriate behavior and foster community.
EntertainmentPlan family-friendly activities; ensure entertainment is suitable for all ages.
Engage Remote EmployeesUse video conferencing, share photos, create remote-inclusive contests.
Gifts for Remote EmployeesSend care packages or gift cards since they won’t be partaking in the on-site feasting.

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.

Photo via Shutterstock

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Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.