Table at The 228 decorated fo the holidays with red cloth on top of black cloth, a mini decorated tree, a sled, and lights

Approximately 70 percent of companies hold a holiday party for their employees. This is a great opportunity to recognize all the hard work of the employees and show how much they matter to the company. However, make sure you plan a company holiday party that’s enjoyable and doesn’t feel like another work obligation.

Plan Early

The earlier you plan your company holiday party, the more options you have for different venues and vendors. If you leave things to the last minute during the busy holiday season, finding a venue and a caterer for the date you want gets more difficult.

Set a Budget

Before going any further than setting the date, set a budget. Then prioritize the different elements of the party, from the venue to the food and entertainment. This makes planning easier as you have set limits on what to spend.

Think About an Off-Site Company Holiday Party

Having a company holiday party somewhere other than your offices. This makes the party feel special and makes you look more appreciative of your employees. It can make some parts of planning easier. You don’t have to transform the office into a suitable holiday party venue. Nobody wants to “party” in the office. It’s too much like being at work. Also, don’t use the same venue every year. People enjoy going to different places each year more.

Consider Less Common Dates and Days

Companies that don’t hold holiday parties at the company during lunch hold these parties on Friday or Saturday nights before the 24th of December. Choosing a midweek day or holding the company holiday party in January can both make the party less expensive and make it easier to book your preferred venue and vendors. Survey employees on the top dates under consideration to see which works for the most people.

Be Clear on the Guest List

Make it clear on the invite whether the party includes plus ones and children. People will be more excited about coming to the party and may even behave better if they can invite at least a plus one if not their whole family to the party. Include an RSVP deadline on invites and make it mandatory to RSVP so you know how many people to plan for at the party. However, don’t require attendance at the party.

Plan Activities

Have at least one or two activities planned for the course of the holiday party. Otherwise, guests may get bored. People will mingle and enjoy themselves more if there’s something to do other than eating, drinking, and talking. This could mean having a DJ and dancing, having a contest (such as tree decorating, cookie decorating, or a game), having karaoke, or hiring a photo booth. A white elephant gift exchange with a $10 limit is an option for those who want to include a gift exchange.

Consider Having a Theme

Having a theme means you have a starting point for all the other decisions you need to make. A luau theme, for example, means Hawaiian food, leis, and tiki lights for decorations. Don’t make the theme a specific holiday, such as Christmas. Not everyone may celebrate that holiday and it’s not very creative.

Get Employees Involved

Involving employees in the planning helps get employees excited about the holiday party. At least ask someone from each department to take part in the party planning committee. Even better, have a contest where all the employees suggest something to include in the party. Then let the employees vote on the ideas and include the winning idea.

Plan the Food

Don’t make the company holiday party potluck, as that makes a suitable selection of food less likely and shows less appreciation for the employees. Choose a caterer and decide whether to have heavy appetizers, a buffet, or a sit-down meal. A buffet often costs more than a sit-down meal or heavy appetizers. Include options to suit different dietary needs, such as vegetarian and gluten-free dishes. For dessert, consider a mini dessert bar. Most people only eat a bite or two anyway and this can help limit costs and waste.

Decide on Drinks

Many companies include alcohol as part of a holiday party. However, about half of companies limit the options. Consider giving each guest two drink tickets, only offering alcohol during the meal, only offering beer or wine or a signature drink, or shutting down the bar at least an hour before the party ends.

Consider Giving to Charity

Involving charitable giving adds more meaning to the party. Consider asking everyone to bring in a donation for a coat drive or food pantry to the company holiday party. Another option is to have a contest where the company gives a certain amount of money to the charity every time an employee does something, such as posting a photo on social media with a certain hashtag.

Get Conversation Flowing

In larger companies where everyone doesn’t already know everyone else well, have a conversation-starting activity. Post questions on various tables for people to ask each other. You can also make it more involved and have a scavenger hunt where you have to find people that fit different descriptions (such as being an only child, having a certain hobby, or knowing a certain language).

Give an Employee Gift

A gift helps recognize employees for their service. More than half of companies give a holiday gift, most often gift cards or cash. Give your employees something useful they will want. A picture of the company president or one of the typical company giveaways with the logo on it aren’t the best choices.

Include Employee Recognition

Recognizing employees who’ve been helpful to the company can be a nice touch as long as it doesn’t take up too much of the party. However, you don’t want to leave many people out. Having employees nominate each other for different serious or silly awards and presenting these awards at the company holiday party gets everyone involved.

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