Tips for Throwing a Stress-Free Office Holiday Party

With the holidays in full swing, it’s a holly jolly time to plan the office holiday party.

But how do you make sure your holiday party doesn’t start to resemble a scene from The Office? Here are a few tips for organizing a fun, stress-free event.

1) Set a budget — How much you plan to spend determines the course of the party. Will it be a catered affair or a potluck? A lunch, cocktails after work or an evening or weekend affair? Most restaurants book early and will require a deposit and headcount.

The bulk of the budget will be spent on food. Keep in mind your employees’ dietary restrictions as you set the menu — be sure to offer a vegetarian option and non-alcoholic drinks.

2) Task a small team to plan the party — Appoint a chair and set parameters (stay on budget, no laser tag, etc.), then hand over the reins. Their job will be to call around and book the restaurant and/or order the grub, decorate, spread the word, and drum up excitement.

3) Consider an organized activity — Here’s the rub about office holiday parties. Once a year or so, you are suddenly compelled to socialize with your co-workers, bosses, and their significant others. Budgets, projects, and looming deadlines aren’t appropriate holiday conversation. So what do you talk about?

Suddenly, getting up on stage and belting out “I Will Survive” seems more appealing than making idle chitchat with that guy in finance. An organized activity can also be an opportunity for team building. And at the very least, it gives people something to talk about, taking some of the potential awkwardness out of the holiday party.

The activity doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. Break into small teams and go on a photo scavenger hunt. (Offer a prize.) Volunteer at a food bank. Go karaoking, ice skating, or bowling. Hold a Rock Band/Guitar Hero contest. (Again, offer a prize).

Plan a Secret Santa gift exchange. Set rules such as a price range. Web sites such as Elfster can help take the pain out of organizing the exchange by electronically matching up employees. This can be a fun way to lead up to the holiday party; you can encourage employees to give a series of small, inexpensive gifts, or send anonymous messages to each other through Elfster.

About Ellen Lee

Ellen Lee is a business and technology freelance writer in San Francisco. Reach out to her at ellenleeonline@gmail.com.
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