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How to Plan an Office Christmas Party

For many people, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. For those who have to plan the office Christmas party, it can be a little stressful.

The most important thing is to have clear, unambiguous rules and expectations. Send out email reminders, post flyers, and maybe even have a big sign at the event reminding everyone of what behavior is allowed and what will not be tolerated. A note along the lines of “remember you have to see us all again on Monday!” is lighthearted but still makes the point.

As soon as you have a date set for the party, tell the office so they can get it in their calendars. Two or three weeks in advance, you need to tell the employees:

  • What they should wear
  • What they need to bring, if anything
  • If they are allowed to bring a guest, and if there are any restrictions on who is allowed to be a guest
  • What type of behavior is allowed or not
  • I f you choose a venue other than your office building, remind your employees they will be representing your company during the event

You may be thinking “they’re adults, I don’t need to tell them how to dress or behave” or even “they’re adults, I can’t possibly tell them how to live their lives.” But you can, and you should. Holidays and parties are both separate things that can impact how a person thinks and behaves – especially when they are combined, and definitely if there is alcohol involved. This doesn’t mean you have to go overboard, though. If your company has a code of conduct or a dress code, consider basing your party rules off of that. “Office dress is appropriate” says plenty about what is allowed at the party. If you want guests to dress up in costume, say so! You could recommend something like “wear a costume from your favorite childhood Christmas movie” to help keep costumes “rated G,” so to speak.

Venue

Your cheapest option is, of course, to host the party in your office building. This isn’t the most exciting prospect, but allows you to put more of your budget towards food. Not to mention you’d be amazed what a few well-placed decorations can do to transform a space. If you can’t use your office building, you’ll need to find your venue as early as possible. Places tend to get booked for the holidays way ahead of time.

Food

We’ve talked a lot about planning the menu in our other Christmas party guide posts, and you can read the most in-depth guide here, but we’d like to reiterate the importance of having a menu that fits the dietary requirements of all your guests. Ask employees in advance if they have any restrictions, such as vegetarian or vegan or any allergies. Often, people who adhere to alternative diets skip holiday parties altogether because they think there won’t be any food they can eat. If possible, send an email with the menu ahead of time to your employees so they know they will be able to eat at the party.

If you decide to serve alcohol, consider only serving beer and wine, rather than liquor, or have one or two cocktail options instead of letting guests/a bartender mix their own drinks. If you have a bartender working the event, you could give guests a specific number of drink tickets and instruct the bartender to not give anyone a drink if they don’t have a ticket.

Activities

It’s important for your employees and their guests to mingle! And you want them to talk about more than just work. You know them best, so pick activities and games you know will interest them. For instance, if your staff is on the quiet, reserved side, don’t ask them to play charades or have a karaoke contest. Those can still be options, but don’t make them a requirement or even the main event. Trivia is always a great option, and Minute To Win It games are easy to plan and fun to play. Try to have prizes on hand for any games like this that will have a clear winner.

Try to set a game on every table, one that allows for as many players as there are seats at the table. You could also set out decks of playing cards. White Elephant gift exchanges are better than Secret Santa exchanges for office parties, because they don’t bring any stress of picking a gift for someone you don’t know very well.

Door prizes and party favors are a great way for the company to show their appreciation for their employees at the party, too.

Tips

If your company hosts an annual holiday party, have comment cards available for employees to give anonymous feedback on the event. This will allow you to host an even more satisfying party next year!

Alcohol is not a requirement, as so many people seem to think. If your main reason for serving alcohol at the office party is because you think that’s what is expected, keep in mind that it is a company party, and, unfortunately, it’s so easy for alcohol to make things unprofessional. It’s okay not to serve it, or to only serve it during dinner, or to only allow guests one drink each. As the party planner, you are ultimately responsible for people’s safety at the party.

Many people also feel the need to have a photographer or even videographer for the event. Again, this isn’t necessary, and may actually do more towards making people feel uncomfortable than ensuring you’ll all be able to enjoy the party. Take one group picture together, maybe have a photobooth, but other than that, don’t worry about it! Guests will take enough pictures and videos on their phones for themselves, and they won’t be concerned about watching what they say all night just in case the company’s videographer gets it on tape.

The office party is about relaxing and socialization. Managers shouldn’t be reminding their team about deadlines and owners shouldn’t be joking too much about how no one is working.