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Thankful for Employees? Celebrate Them with an Office Holiday Party

Thankful for Employees? Celebrate Them with an Office Holiday Party

Q4 can be overwhelming, especially if you’re rolling out open enrollment while wrapping up a fiscal year. But the holiday season means much more than handling special PTO requests during a blackout period. This year, don’t overlook one of your best opportunities for giving thanks and showing employees your appreciation: the Office Holiday Party!

Here’s why the office holiday party matters and how to plan yours.


Why Host an Office Holiday Party?

Whether you’ve never had an annual party before or hosted one for decades, it’s worth asking, “Why throw an office holiday party?” Even if it’s a company tradition, the cost and risk associated with holiday parties are enough to demand a better reason than tradition alone.

In fact, during the 2020 holiday season, that’s exactly where many employers ended up. Most attempted to move their holiday parties online while some insisted on gathering as usual at a time when nothing was going as usual. And still others cancelled festivities altogether.

The pandemic has challenged so many office routines and traditions that companies have found themselves asking why they do many things. Again, tradition alone isn’t a good reason to throw an office holiday party, especially when so many organizations are still recovering from lost revenue. It certainly costs less to cancel the party—but not bringing it back this year could actually cost you more in the long run.

Why? The primary purpose of an office holiday party is to build your company culture by showing workers your appreciation. As you know, a healthy culture has a direct effect on retention. With that in mind, employers should take holiday fun pretty seriously!

The office holiday party is an opportunity to:

  • get to know coworkers better and meet their significant others.
  • socialize across teams and mingle with managers, outside the context of project collaboration or performance management.
  • celebrate the year’s work, whether the company has been thriving or just surviving.

It’s important to acknowledge and encourage employees’ efforts. And that’s the best reason of all to host a holiday party. This holiday season, you can show your team gratitude and generosity that may carry them through occasional dissatisfaction.


How to Plan an Office Holiday Party in 7 Steps

Here are seven steps to planning a party that makes workers feel appreciated and invested:

1. Extend an open invitation to employees to help plan the party.

Delegate responsibilities. There are always a few passionate event planners in every office, who often jump at any opportunity to plan a party. You don’t have to plan alone.

2. Set a party date early and stick to it. 

If the venue is the difference-maker for your organization, book it as early as possible to have your choice of date.

You want your workers to know that you planned the party with them in mind. You might choose a weekday, out of consideration for your employees’ weekend plans, which are usually especially busy around the holiday season. You might also consider early December for a similar reason—also keeping in mind that, the closer you get to the actual holidays, the more likely employees will be traveling. Also, an evening start time would be best so that significant others can make it as well.

3. Choose an offsite party venue if possible.

Obviously, the office would be the most convenient and cost effective. But remember that the purpose of the party is to build company culture. Hosting the festivities in the same space as daily activities makes the event less exceptional. It also discourages workers from taking a break and getting to know each other outside of the office.
Some small-to-midsize business owners may want to host the holiday party at their own home. After all, hospitality is a form of appreciation. A house party can be a great culture-building event, but it becomes less of a viable option the more a company grows.

4. Be intentional about inviting remote and offsite workers to the party.

Even if they don’t plan to attend, it’s still a good idea to check in with them on a video call. Let them know the company is thinking about them and appreciates them.

5. Remember to make the party inclusive of all religions.

Although the actual holidays celebrate particular cultures and religions, the purpose of your holiday office party is building company culture.

6. Clearly set party expectations for employees ahead of time.

Remind employees that—even though the party is a chance to relax and enjoy the company of colleagues—it is still an office event. In other words, they may not have professional responsibilities at the party, but their professional reputation is still at stake. It’s good to get out of the office, but they're still going back to it the next day, when the party may still be a topic of conversation—or at least, you hope so!
Before the party, remind employees of relevant policies and norms like anti-harassment. However, rather than copying policy language on the party invitation, find more creative and situation-specific ways to communicate expectations. For example, send out party FAQs a week or two in advance with answers to questions like:

—Can I bring a plus-one?
—What should I wear?
—Will there be alcohol?
—Should I bring a gift?
—Can I post pictures on social media?

7. Anticipate the worst, and find creative ways to prevent it.

You want your employees to enjoy the festivities without becoming a danger to themselves or others. But you also want to treat them like adults.

For example, alcohol is often a particular concern at holiday parties. It invites a host of liabilities—so much so, that many employers no longer allow it at parties. So, if you do plan to allow alcohol, you might consider a two-drink max or a ticket system. Or you could give each employee an Uber or Lyft code ahead of time to nudge them toward getting a ride rather than driving home afterward.


There are so many ways you can plan your holiday office party in a way that’s uniquely suited to your organization. But whatever the details and expectations, it’s important to plan early and communicate clearly.

Planning an office holiday party—the process and the event itself—creates some anticipation and shows your appreciation when employees need it most. How you spend this holiday season will pay off in retention all year long.


Additional Resources

You can stay informed, educated, and up-to-date with company culture, retention, and other important topics by using BerniePortal’s comprehensive resources:

  • BerniePortal Blog—a one-stop-shop for HR industry news
  • HR Glossary—featuring the most common HR terms, acronyms, and compliance
  • HR Guides—essential pillars, covering an extensive list of comprehensive HR topics
  • BernieU—free online HR courses, approved for SHRM and HRCI recertification credit
  • HR Party of One—our popular YouTube series and podcast, covering emerging HR trends and enduring HR topics

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