Throwing a holiday party for your employees is a great way to show your appreciation for their hard work throughout the year. However, without proper planning, an office holiday party can quickly go from delightful to frightful.
To keep your party as fun and festive as possible, follow these ten tips:
- Consider a Non-Traditional Holiday Celebration
If you’re concerned about the liabilities that come along with a traditional office holiday party (like alcohol-related incidents and harassment claims), a growing trend with many companies is to host a corporate luncheon or a volunteer event to benefit a non-profit or community group.
- Set The Tone With A Note
Make sure to set expectations – and guidelines – by distributing a memo before the holiday party. In the memo, remind employees that all of your workplace policies apply to the event, including the sexual harassment and dress code policies; discourage excessive drinking if you are serving alcohol (see below for further tips on this); and provide relevant information about safety measures, transportation, etc.
- Gift Exchange Alternatives
A holiday gift exchange could open you up to harassment claims as well as make employees feel uncomfortable with a monetary commitment. Instead, sponsor a fundraising event for a local charity or opt to purchase gifts for a needy family instead!
- Keep Work In The Workplace
Parties and work don’t mix, so keep them separated. Managers should understand that no work will be performed during the event, and that their employees are off the clock (and off the hook). Don’t permit any speeches about business, bonuses or work-related activity. Finally, to create even more separation, consider hosting the party at a hotel, catering hall, restaurant or other off-site facility.
- Pick A Name, Check It Twice
Be sure that your holiday event has a name and theme that is inclusive and non-religious as to avoid unintentional religious discrimination. Also, inform your employees that participation in holiday gatherings is optional and that it is not in any way, shape or form a condition of their employment.
- Put Everyone On The Guest List
Invite everyone in the company; otherwise you could be inviting a host of problems, including low employee morale, divisiveness and, worst of all, lawsuits.
- Say No To Mistletoe
This holiday tradition simply has no place in an office party, so don’t get hung up on hanging it at yours. We promise, the mistletoe won’t be missed.
- Set Restrictions For Serving Alcohol
While the decision to serve alcohol at all is up to you, if you do decide to put these beverages on the menu, be sure to put these safeguards in place:
- Use a voucher system to limit the number of drinks served per employee (e.g., two drink tickets per employee)
- Provide non-alcoholic alternatives
- Tell the wait staff and/or bar tender to refuse to service anyone who is visibly drunk and to alert you if an employee becomes a problem
- Provide wristbands to employees who are 21 years old or over
- Identify designated drivers or hire a cab service to transport those employees who drink
- If A Problem Does Come Up, Address It
Even if you follow every piece of advice in this article, as well as advice from your attorney, issues may still arise. If you receive a complaint from an employee related to the party, make sure to respond to it and perform a thorough investigation, just as you would for complaints that occur during normal working conditions.
- Ask For Help
Still worried that your office holiday party could be more scary than merry? A knowledgeable human resources professional could help light the way to more fun, festive, safe and compliant celebration.
If you are an Alcott HR client, we are here to help. If you’re not, we invite you to learn more about our human resources services and solutions, and how we can give you the guidance you need during the holidays and all year long.
Happy Holidays from Alcott HR!