Depending on how well it is executed, a company’s holiday party can be either the most anticipated or the most dreaded event of the year. When done right, an office holiday party should bring together colleagues, make them feel appreciated for the year’s work, and give them a chance to socialize and get to know one another away from the pressures of the workweek. Use these tips to plan a holiday party that will delight your employees and have them counting the days until next year’s party.
The Basics: Who, What When, Where
Holiday parties can range from a simple potluck in the breakroom during the workweek to a special night out on the town or a black-tie affair, so the first step is deciding what type of event is planned, and communicating the plans to your employees. Many offices invite the spouses of employees to the holiday party, and a smaller number make it a family-friendly event and invite children. Make sure to be very explicit in your email invitations or flyers exactly who is welcome to avoid any awkward moments.
Where will the fun be taking place? You’ll need to take several factors into consideration, including the number of people you’ll be expecting and the available budget. For some companies, an in-house party at the office held during the workday is the best solution, making it easy for everyone to attend and giving them a well-earned break. Other venue ideas include:
- Renting the party room at a local restaurant
- An auditorium or community event center
- The boss’s house
- A go cart track, country club, or other special venues
Good Food in Good Company
If your party is planned at a local restaurant, it is typically assumed that people can order for themselves and the company will pick up the tab. Some companies arrange a set menu, and these details need to be worked out in advance, including drink limits if needed, so no one overindulges. For parties in other settings, you will need to decide how to feed your guests.
- Cook for them yourself. This works best for smaller companies with a limited number of employees.
- Have a potluck. Don’t want to worry about having food that everyone will like? Ask everybody to pitch in and bring a dish to share. But don’t forget to have a sign-up sheet, or you could end up with a table full only of salads or desserts! Even with a catered event, having a dessert potluck gives everyone a chance to contribute.
- Hire a caterer. Traditionally, a caterer may either set up a buffet or serve the courses to your guests while seated. Today, however, the possibilities are endless – hire a few gourmet food trucks to provide multiple options, or arrange a sushi bar.
Exchanging Gifts and Prizes
Particularly with a smaller guest list, many companies have some type of gift exchange for the holidays. In a Secret Santa, everybody is assigned a coworker for whom they secretly buy a gift – as a fun twist, sit in a circle while you open presents and have everyone make a guess about the identity of their Secret Santa. For a white elephant exchange, everybody brings a wrapped gift and then goes through a process of unwrapping and exchanging gifts. A Secret Santa game is typically better suited for a close-knit team, where employees are more likely to know each other well. With either classic option, make sure to set a price limit (usually $20 or less) to avoid any embarrassment or overspending.
Consider holding a silent auction or raffle to add an extra element of excitement. You can either give everyone a ticket when they enter and draw randomly from a hat, or make it a competition – guess how many peppermints are in the jar, or a hilarious ugly sweater contest.
Before you finalize and send out your invitations, don’t forget to make sure everyone who should be included is on your list. If you have remote employees who won’t be able to attend an in-person event, try to send them gift certificates for a nice dinner out or similar holiday gift. And if the party is going to be held in your office space, ensure the area is spotless -- both before and after your event. Our team at COIT is happy to lend a helping hand.