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8 Tips for Hosting an Inclusive Office Holiday Party

The holidays are right around the corner! While this season is full of joy and festivities, it can be a stressful and challenging time for HR teams and business owners. There is plenty of planning that goes into company holiday parties. Of course, date, time, and location are all essential factors, but what about inclusivity?

The ideal office holiday party is inclusive, appropriate, and makes the team feel closer together come January—but these standards are all easier said than done. Luckily, there are several tried-and-true strategies to host an HR-approved holiday party that everyone will enjoy. Want your party to be a massive success instead of a major regret? Follow the eight tips below to set yourself up for holiday harmony.  

1. Make the Party Optional

First, set the tone for the event by ensuring employees know it’s optional to attend. Your team members may have any number of reasons to decline the invite: COVID-19 fears, conflicting personal obligations, sobriety concerns, or just a preference to keep work and personal lives separate. 

Include a note in your invitation to indicate that attendance is optional, and if employees do opt out, don’t try to convince them otherwise. If gifts, awards, or bonuses are handed out at the event, give employees an alternative option to participate. We recommend allowing employees to accept awards or gifts virtually. You can do this by simply setting up a Zoom call during the award ceremony.

2. Be Mindful of All Religions, Holidays, and Beliefs

Many holiday parties focus on Christmas. And yes, Christmas happens this time of year, but remember, only some celebrate Christmas. For example, Hanukkah (Dec 18–26) and Kwanzaa (Dec 26–Jan 1) are also celebrated during this time!

When December rolls around, remember that your employees likely have a variety of religious beliefs and holiday traditions. With that in mind, try to focus the party on a more generic celebration of the holidays and wintertime. 

With that said, it’s best to ditch the Santa and reindeer decorations– try snowflakes or garland instead. You should even consider the colors of your decor. Be aware that red and green decorations are associated with Christmas, while blue and white are traditionally used for Hanukkah celebrations. The less your activities, food, and décor highlight Christmas exclusively, the more you’ll include all your employees in the festivities.  

3. Remind Your Employees of Policies

Your employee handbook likely has policies that dictate what’s appropriate in the workplace and at work events. Remind employees about proper conduct at the holiday party to avoid potential issues during the holiday season. In particular, it’s helpful to cover guidelines around substance abuse, social media posting, and general safety measures. Policies are only beneficial to the extent that your employees know they exist, so take this time to ensure everyone is clear on your expectations. 

Don’t have a handbook for your company?

An employee handbook can help protect your business against lawsuits and claims, such as wrongful termination, harassment, and discrimination. We can support you in creating a comprehensive, professional-quality employee handbook based on federal employment law for your business. Contact us to learn more.

4. Organize Appropriate Activities (Lose the Mistletoe!)

If your holiday party emphasizes drinking and mingling, you’ll introduce opportunities for the event to get out of hand—and for some attendees to feel left out. Instead, schedule a few activities throughout the party to bring people together and allow for work-appropriate bonding.

Consider fun games and competitions, holiday gift exchanges, or even employee awards ceremonies to break up the event and give people a reason to come together. Our favorite work-friendly activities include White Elephant Gift Exchange, Find Someone Who (People bingo), and office trivia.

5. Offer a Variety of Food and Drink Options

When it comes to appetizers or meals at your holiday party, it’s essential to provide enough options so that there’s something for everyone. Consider common allergies, vegetarian and vegan diets, food sensitivities, and religious restrictions. If you have limited options for employees with specific diets, ensure they have access to their food preferences before other employees can claim them.

Regarding drinks, try to include various non-alcoholic options like juices, sparkling waters, soft drinks, or mocktails so employees can opt out of drinking alcohol if they wish.

6. Limit Drinking Time and Consider Providing Transportation

Offering an open bar can be a recipe for disaster, especially as employees drink later and later into the night. To keep excessive drinking (and the potential for drunk driving) to a minimum, it’s a good idea to stop serving drinks an hour or two before the event ends. It’s also a good idea to provide transportation or ride-share reimbursements, so employees don’t feel pressured to drive themselves.

7. Take the Opportunity to Get to Know Employees Better

The ultimate goal for your holiday party is to provide a space for employees to spend time together and celebrate a job well done throughout the year. 

With that in mind, avoid getting so caught up in party planning that you forget to mingle with employees. Instead, spend time throughout the event talking to your employees, meeting any guests, and facilitating company-wide bonding. 

8. Avoid Talking About Work

As you mingle, bringing up the latest work project or talking shop for the year ahead might be tempting. Resist the urge! This is your opportunity to get to know your employees outside of work—and it’s a great opportunity for the whole team to relax and celebrate. So try to stick to topics that don’t revolve around work until you’re back in the office. 

The best way to ensure a successful, inclusive holiday party is to have robust HR policies year-round. Need additional support? Start the new year on a high note by trusting Merritt Business Solutions with your HR, payroll, benefits, and more. Contact us today! 

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