The Do’s and Don’ts of Throwing an Office Holiday Party

The holiday season is here again, and if you’re a small business owner that can only mean one thing – it’s time to start planning for the annual office holiday party.  Quotidian though they may seem, office parties have become an important part of the American workplace over the years. While many offices tend to be less productive during the season, a good holiday party can help your employees cap off the year on a high note, which will help them get a running start heading into the new quarter.  

With that said, it’s important to remember that being a good employer doesn’t necessarily make you a great event planner. As many of my peers have learned the hard way, some of the worst holiday parties have been thrown with the best intentions. Don’t let that happen to you this season. Follow these simple “Dos” and “Don’ts” to ensure that your office holiday party is remembered for all the right reasons.

Do: Let Your Employees Bring a Plus-One

Allowing your employees to bring a date to your holiday bash is beneficial for two reasons. First, the more guests you let past the ropes the more fun your party will be (at least in the eyes of your employees). Second, allowing your employees to bring dates will help prevent inter-office crushes from turning into alcohol-fueled trysts in the supply closet. That sounds tacky, but these things definitely happen and the fallout from flash “internal relations” can have a negative impact on your productivity moving forward. There’s nothing wrong with spreading the love, just try to do it in a way that doesn’t clog up your company’s gears.

Don’t: Let Your Employees Bring Kids

The best place for your employee’s children to be during the party is at home with a sitter. This is supposed to be a fun event for adults. Allowing your employees to bring their children will only make things more stressful for everyone involved – especially if you plan on serving alcohol.

Do: Look for Deals

An office party shouldn’t cost you the sum total of everyone’s Christmas bonus. Look for deals on supplies and food to help you cut costs. Stores like Staples tend to offer discounts on holiday purchases and you can pick up candy and other goodies in bulk at wholesale prices from a retailer like If you plan on serving alcohol, you might want to consider giving every employee a few drink coupons for a cash bar. Little things like this can go a long way towards keeping your party affordable.

Don’t: Be a Scrooge

Saving money is important, but that doesn’t mean you should let pinching pennies get in the way of a good time. There are three things every good office party needs to be successful. First, you have to have a DJ. If you know someone who will do it for free, then great. If not, then rent one. Nobody wants to listen to a playlist on your iPod all evening. Second, you need some activities for your employees. While a buffet table does indeed count as an “activity” for some, you should invest in other options. Karaoke machines tend to be big hits this time of year, as do holiday-themed activities like DIY gingerbread and ornament stations. Finally, you need to have alcohol. Yes, alcohol. You don’t need to stock your pantry like a frat house, but this is a reward for your employees and they should be allowed, as consenting and hardworking adults, to indulge in a few cocktails. If nothing else, it will be worth it to see Barry from accounting try to do the robot on the dance floor.

Do: Make Attendance Mandatory

Here’s the problem with many company holiday parties. If attendance is voluntary, many employees avoid them for fear that the party will be lame. As a result, an otherwise awesome party does indeed become lame due to the low turnout. So when it comes time to send out the invites for your holiday get-together, put on your manager pants and make attendance mandatory. If everyone at least gives the party a chance, it will actually turn out to be a lot of fun.

Don’t: Abuse Your Privilege

There’s nothing wrong with making attendance mandatory for your office holiday party, but you need to respect your employees’ time and commitments. Don’t be the type of employer that forces everyone to show up by 6pm and then refuses to let anyone leave until 10pm. Be flexible. Only enforce mandatory attendance for about an hour and allow people to arrive fashionably late. A little empathy will go a long way towards making your holiday party a success.

You don’t have to host a show on Bravo! to throw an awesome holiday party for your office. Follow these tips when planning your get-together and you can be sure that your employees will head into the new year happier, healthier and a lot more productive than they were during this traditionally slow season.

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