Making a List, Checking It Twice

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Sure, holiday parties can be expensive and time-consuming to plan. Maybe, you think, this year it’s just not worth the hassle. But then you remember last year, when you connected with a new colleague and found out you both had French bulldogs! And you also got to finally meet Carla’s new partner. Holiday parties can be a great way for coworkers to bond and let their hair down, and a festive way to close out the year.

If you’re going to have a party, it’s time to start planning—if you haven’t already. The holidays may seem far away at this point, but they’ll be here before you know it. Here’s a how-to checklist for planning the best party yet.

  1. Set a budget. Create a budget that makes sense for your company. This is important for many reasons. Keep in mind any budget cuts you’ve had to make recently—especially if there’ve been layoffs. It won’t help morale if you throw an extravagant party with money that could have been spent toward keeping an employee (even if it doesn’t really work that way). Once you’ve set a budget, you can settle on the type of party you’ll have.
  2. Choose the venue. If you believe what you see in the movies, the office holiday party involves using the office as the venue, then adding some music, a punch bowl full of booze, awkward dancing, and holiday cookies in the break room. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Be creative when you consider the venue—you could have the party at an ice-skating rink, a sporting event, or even a manager’s home. Keep your budget in mind and find a venue or activity you think your employees would be excited about, whether it’s a boat, bowling, or a black-light mini golf course.
  3. Set the date and time. While this seems simple enough, it could be the most important step! Depending on the size of your company, you could send out a poll to get an idea of dates that might work for your group. For some venues, you must set the date far in advance for space to be available. Also, the earlier you set a date, the more likely employees can and will attend.
  4. Guests. Does this feel like wedding planning yet? Consider whether the event will include just employees, a plus-one, or whole families. This will largely depend on the venue and activities. Think about a celebration during the day if kids are invited, and give plenty of advance notice if kids are not invited so families can plan for childcare. Allowing at least a plus-one will likely encourage more employees to attend, especially if they’re new and don’t know a lot of coworkers well yet.
  5. Keep it festive. There are a lot of holidays to be celebrated in December, but instead of trying to include all religions, stick with general winter-themed party decor: snowflakes, snow people, twinkling lights, etc.
  6. Food. Food and holidays are known to be pals. But while you may have an office full of baking enthusiasts, it’s nicer to offer catered food instead of a potluck if your budget allows—just to take that task off of people’s plates, so to speak. And like all parties, make sure there are plenty of dietary options for vegetarians and carnivores alike.
  7. Drinks. Be aware that serving alcohol always brings a risk at a work event. Decide how to “do” alcohol. Options include a single signature cocktail, beer and wine, drink tickets, and/or hired bartenders. Having someone besides employees serve the drinks is always a good idea, and limited drink tickets can keep the party from getting out of hand. Always offer plenty of nonalcoholic options.
  8. Transportation. Even with drink tickets, there will be those who drink too much. Create a proactive plan to offer free rideshare credit to everyone beforehand, and encourage everyone to take advantage of it both to and from the party. Whether or not you’re serving alcohol, it’s a nice way to encourage people to attend!

For more ideas, be sure to read “Office Holiday Parties: The Ultimate Guide, Pt. 1” and “Office Parties: The Ultimate Guide, Pt. 2.”

Dana Lester has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. She is passionate about holistic wellness, eating fruit, and writing.


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