5 HR tips for planning a successful office Christmas party 

As we approach the end of the year, Christmas party planning will be at the front of many people’s minds.  

Usually accompanied by feelings of joy and excitement, one group of people may be feeling anything but. For managers and business owners, the office Christmas party can be headache-inducing.  

However, creating a careful plan and following a few sensible steps is the best way to avoid the hangover that office party-planning can sometimes cause.  

To help you know where to start, we’ve created a list of our top five HR tips to help you in the planning stage.  

Communication 

The most important part of office Christmas party planning from an HR perspective is communication.  

As an employer, you need to set clear boundaries and expectations of your employees. This is true for any work-related social gathering, but particularly those involving alcohol as inhibitions are usually lower.  

So, when should you communicate these expectations? 

Once you’ve established the ground rules, we recommend communicating these to staff throughout the Christmas period – not just once.  

We’ve found that sending a few reminders helps to keep the expectations fresh in everyone’s minds and increases the likelihood of compliance. You should also ensure you explain the consequences of any rule-breaking or unacceptable party behaviour.  

Sending a quick and concise email to all employees is the easiest way to get your message heard. Use the opportunity to build excitement for the party while reminding them that workplace policies still apply during the event and disciplinary action will be taken if necessary.  

If you have any specific policies that apply, be sure to mention what they are and where employees can find them to refresh their knowledge.  

Inclusivity 

It’s important to keep in mind that while Christmas is a major event for most Islanders, not everyone on your team may celebrate Christmas.  

Many religions and cultures have different holidays that are celebrated in a similar fashion.  

Muslims have two major celebrations in the year, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. Both are significant days in the Islamic calendar and, as the Islamic calendar is based upon the cycle of the moon, the celebrations fall on different days each year. 

In Judaism, Hanukkah begins on the 25th day of Kislev which typically falls between late November and late December. The celebration lasts eight days and is sometimes referred to as the Festival of Lights.  

Taking some time to research and plan events for different cultural celebrations is a great way to bring your team together and increase inclusivity

Another important thing to consider is the needs of your employees. Some venues aren’t accessible for people with disabilities, and you may have individuals with dietary restrictions.  

Don’t forget about any employees who aren’t in the office. Everyone should be invited to the Christmas party, so ensure you include those on parental or annual leave and any remote or home workers. 

Check in with your staff and ask yourself some questions to determine what accommodations you may need to plan for. 

  • Will the food provided meet the dietary needs of those attending? 
  • Is the selected venue accessible for those with disabilities? 
  • Have you catered to those who don’t drink alcohol? 
  • Is the date or time considerate of those with other familial, cultural, or religious responsibilities and events? 
  • Has anyone been excluded? 

Timing 

It may not be the most obvious, but the timing of your party can have a huge impact on its success.  

While a lunch event can sound appealing, there’s always the possibility it can lead to all-day drinking. There could also be an issue if employees drink during a lunch party and then need to return to work.  

Evening events can separate the workday from the party and allow for employees to carry on the festivities once the party ends if they choose. Be mindful of employees with children during the planning stage, as the timing and location may not allow those who need to arrange childcare to take part.  

You may want to consider planning your party for a Friday or Saturday to avoid the inevitable sick days or requests to work from home the next day.  

However, weekend events aren’t always possible. If you find that your party will fall during the work week, check you have an up-to-date policy regarding post-party absenteeism.  

The party has ended but some employees want to carry on – what do you do?  

Your responsibility as an employer doesn’t end the second the party stops, as post-party incidents can still bring liability issues.  

One way to distance the business from being associated with any afterparties is to have designated timings for the event.  

Specifying the start and end times will let your employees know when the party is officially a work event and when it isn’t. Communicate these times when the party is announced and again on the day.  

Social media 

Sharing photos on social media is always a great way to show your followers the fun you had at your holiday party – but be aware.  

Photos, posts, or comments of behaviour that may offend clients or other individuals can hurt your business and employees’ reputations. Competitors may also try to capitalise on inappropriate behaviour found on social media. 

Media outlets usually have a keen eye on social media for inappropriate conduct at corporate parties. Insensitive costumes or performances make easy festive content for the media, so ensure your employees are not engaging in unacceptable behaviour, especially online.  

If your business doesn’t already have one, you may want to consider implementing a social media policy. Many companies today have policies in place to prevent undesirable online behaviour from employees. 

Ensure your staff are familiar with your policy and reinforce its importance during the Christmas period.  

It’s highly impractical to carry out a ban on social media or photos, but having alternative options for posting on public feeds might minimise inappropriate posts.  

Consider setting up an internal group folder or chat for employees to share any photos they may have taken. You might even wish to run a competition for photos of the best outfit if your party is themed.  

Alcohol 

A big part of office Christmas parties is the potential of an open bar.  

Many companies will put a significant portion of their party budget towards alcohol, which will excite many employees. However, copious amounts of alcohol can have a negative impact on your carefully planned party. 

Excessive drinking often leads to poor decision-making, injuries, and can even lead to violent outbursts. One of the easiest ways to combat over-consumption of alcohol at your work event is to not offer a free bar. 

There is an increasing number of companies opting out of the party scene and choosing more relaxed events for their Christmas get-togethers.  

Places like escape rooms still help your team to bond and even having a catered gathering in your workplace creates the more social element that parties provide. You could host a games or movie night, or even a simple dinner out with your team. 

If you do want a more traditional party, there are other ways to manage the alcohol levels. 

While placing a time-limit on free alcohol will have an impact on the duration of over-consumption, some may binge drink during the allotted free period to feel like they’ve got the full benefit. 

A free drink token system is a good alternative as it still offers free alcohol without putting a time limit on the benefit.  

You can also put restrictions in place regarding the type of alcohol available for free. Banning shots and spirits from the free alcohol list can help limit excessive drinking. 

Another thing to keep in mind is that not everyone drinks alcohol. Pregnancy, religion, and medical conditions are all reasons why someone may choose not to drink, so having non-alcoholic alternatives is essential for office parties.  

Unlimited soft drinks and non-alcoholic drinks can help reduce the amount of alcohol being consumed and ease the drinks budget of your event.  

Want to run an office Secret Santa without any drama? 

Check out our guide to a successful Secret Santa.

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