Running Your Business

How to Plan a Fun (and Respectful) Office Holiday Party


  • Your staff worked hard this year, so they deserve an office holiday party that allows them to relax with their coworkers and celebrate

  • Before you book anything, check in with your staff on what they'd like from a holiday party

  • Keep the party nondenominational and set etiquette expectations

Posted by December 11, 2017

It’s the holiday season, and your staff is itching for a chance to let loose and celebrate with their peers. They worked hard this year, so you really want to treat them to something fun.

Your team deserves an office holiday party that allows them to relax with fellow coworkers and celebrate their yearly accomplishments. But, what type of holiday party should you throw?

You know there are employees with various religious and cultural backgrounds, and you certainly don’t want to disrespect anybody or make anyone feel left out. You also don’t want any mishaps, like someone drinking too much or saying something inappropriate to someone else. With a little careful planning and execution, your staff can thoroughly enjoy the party—in a safe, happy and healthy way!

What to Consider When Planning a Holiday Party

What type of holiday party do you want to plan? There are many options, and the most popular ones include hosting a party in your physical workspace or inviting your staff out for a luncheon, dinner or special event. If celebrating in your workspace sounds like a fun time, consider shutting down business operations for a few hours during the party. If you truly want your staff to enjoy themselves, they cannot be expected to work during this time.

Another option is to schedule the celebration immediately after the workday. Consider getting the event catered and hiring an event planning or cleaning company to set everything up and clean the office afterward.

You can also go off-site for a holiday party. In fact, your employees might prefer this. The best options are a luncheon or dinner. Lunches are usually more affordable and scheduled during the week, while dinners are slightly more expensive and planned on Fridays and Saturdays. Special events—like concerts and comedy shows—are fun options for an office holiday party without food.

Poll Your Staff on What They Want

Before you book anything, check in with your staff to see what they’d like from a holiday party, especially if you’ve been doing the same old thing for over a decade. Your team may want to try something new.

If you haven’t asked your staff what they like or dislike before, do it now! Then, about a week after the holiday party, send a quick email to ask for suggestions on reorganizing the event during the year ahead. A poll is a quick way to narrow down the choices, but also allow staff to offer suggestions. They might personally know someone who can provide the entertainment or catering.

Make the Party Nondenominational

There are many religious, cultural and agnostic individuals who celebrate holidays (or don’t!) around this time of year. It isn’t fair to all of your staff to make the event focused on one specific holiday, even if the majority of your organization celebrates the same holiday. You wouldn’t want anyone to feel unwelcome, so keep the theme based on the holiday or winter season in general. This way, everyone feels included. You could also consider throwing a party to simply celebrate the new year.

Set Etiquette Expectations

One final note: before the event draws near, make sure your staff understands what type of behavior you’re comfortable with. Some organizations may welcome drinking at holiday parties. Just remember to send out a memo in advance to warn your staff to make healthy decisions and be respectful of their peers. Have the number for a local taxi service on hand so that anyone who drinks too much can still get home safely.

If you’re allowing your staff to invite guests to the party, specify how many people they can bring—and reiterate that proper social etiquette is expected of guests.

Decide whether or not presents can be exchanged at the office party. You don’t want anyone feeling left out if they don’t receive something, and you also don’t want some employees to overspend and feel awkward. If you support a gift exchange, consider a holiday gift swap where everyone shows up with one gift but leaves with another.

Also, if you plan on giving your employees a present or monetary gift, decide ahead of time how much you’ll spend and make sure you treat all staff in the same manner. This doesn’t mean you need to give everyone the same thing (although that is always a good idea). If you choose to give each employee a different gift, do so according to seniority, not likability.

Finally, make sure to prep your work schedule so that you can also enjoy the fun. An office holiday party isn’t all about your employees—it’s for you to enjoy, as well!

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