You’re hosting an office holiday party to celebrate the company’s recent success and enter 2012 on a high note. Like any business event, you’ll want to plan carefully to ensure it’s a hit (and not a fiasco). Here are four tips for keeping the festivities professional, responsible, and enjoyable for everyone.
Serve alcohol with caution. Social host liability and dram shop laws vary by state, but often the person or company sponsoring a social event is responsible for what happens during and as a result of it. In some places, the host is liable for serving alcohol to intoxicated guests and/or for allowing someone who has been drinking to drive. If you plan to offer alcohol at your holiday party, limit your liability by holding the event off-site and issuing one or two “drink tickets” that guests can redeem at the bar. Require guests to purchase any alcohol they consume beyond the tickets directly from the venue, so that you are no longer the host. If you hold an event at your office or home, remember that you are liable for all alcohol consumed, even if you hire a bartender. Retain a taxi service or a team of designated drivers to transport employees who consume alcohol; the expense will be far less than the potential risk you’ll otherwise bear.
Know what your insurance covers. If damage or injury occurs during your holiday office party, your workers’ compensation insurance policy may provide coverage. Nevertheless, insurance claims often lead to higher premiums down the road. Be aware that many general liability business insurance policies do not provide coverage if an event involves a third-party alcohol vendor. If that is the case, consider purchasing business or corporate event insurance coverage for the date of your party.
Keep things classy. Inviting top clients and partners to your holiday party can deepen your relationships and your understanding of who people are when you aren’t talking business. However, relaxed environments often tend to relaxed judgment. This may seem intuitive, but if you invite clients to the party, make sure that all staff members are aware of their presence. Prior to the party, clearly communicate your expectations for employees’ behavior, attire, and language.
Respect employees’ choices and beliefs. Never assume that you know an employee’s personal beliefs or history — or that they want to spend their “free time” with co-workers. Wage and labor laws in most states require you to pay employees for their time at any required work function, which includes a holiday party. Protect yourself by making attendance optional. Be sensitive to the facts that some people do not drink alcohol or feel comfortable in bars, while others may not celebrate Christmas or other holidays.