The 7 Essential Tips for a Successful Office Holiday Party

Hosting a holiday party for your practice can be a great way to bring a successful year to a close, acknowledge hard work, and foster community among your staff or associates. However, holiday parties can present opportunities for embarrassment, inappropriate behavior, and regret. Have you considered these seven points to make a smooth and uneventful transition into the new year?

  1. Don't force it.
    While it's important to foster community among your staff, it's also important to respect that they may have circumstances in their lives that can make getting to an after-hours party difficult (such as child care considerations and carefully constructed commuting schedules). Attendance shouldn't be mandatory if the party takes place outside of work hours, and everyone will have a better time if they can count on receiving their normal paycheck even if the party occurs during work hours.
  2. Indicate who's invited!
    Don't leave it to the staff to guess whether significant others, children or guests are invited! Nothing's more embarrassing than being the only one at a party without their partner, or the only one with a tagalong! Make sure to let employees know who should come to the party several days in advance.
  3. Food first!
    While it can endear you to employees to provide alcoholic beverages, taking simple precautions can prevent accidental overindulgence. Make sure a substantial appetizer comes out in advance of cocktails, beer or wine so that no one is drinking on an empty stomach. Especially if the party is being held after work, staff who have been on their feet all day with no chance to eat are at high risk of accidently drinking too much. And, as with any great party, provide plenty of non-alcoholic sparkling beverages so staff and guests can remain festive without having to indulge.
  4. Make the meal friendly for all stomachs!
    Take a survey of any special dietary needs well in advance! This needn't be hard – free tools like SurveyMonkey can make collecting important, anonymous information easy. You don't want an employee to be disappointed when they can't eat any of the food, or accidentally eat something that could jeopardize their health.
  5. Consider a "Charity Bar."
    While it may seem in poor holiday spirit to have a cash bar, introducing money into the equation can help partygoers maintain responsibility. Find a comfortable middle ground by having attendees pay a few dollars into a charity box in exchange for drinks after a free first round. Then, later in the week, several (or all!) of your employees can hand-deliver the collected money to the local institution of your choice.
  6. Ask before you tag!
    It can be great for office culture and morale to have pictures of happy staff on social media enjoying themselves at work. Just remember, when uploading pictures of the party, remember to ask before you "tag" anyone on Facebook. It could be as minor as an unflattering picture or as serious as someone trying to conceal their workplace from an abusive former partner.
  7. No potlucks!
    While it seems like an obvious way to get everyone into the holiday spirit, potlucks are bad news for a variety of reasons. First, the last thing most staff members want to do after a full day on their feet is go home and do more tasks for work in addition to feeding their own family. However, the fear of not showing "team spirit" can compel employees to do so anyway, and grumble about it behind your back. Second, not everyone is familiar with the specifics of dietary restrictions. If a staff member has a gluten allergy, someone unfamiliar with the condition may think avoiding wheat is all that's required, and unknowingly allow soy sauce (which has a high gluten content) into the dish. Finally, not everyone's standards of food safety are the same, and food that's been transported and then left on a table unrefrigerated can make for some embarrassing GI distress, even in the absence of foodborne illness.
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