With just a few months until Christmas, companies are starting to prepare to celebrate the end of yet another year. Office parties are all about happiness and excitement, but those planning it all in the background may feel trepidation about the pressure to make everyone happy and keep things under control. 

From an HR perspective, Christmas parties can bring on a sense of impending headache. Alcohol-fuelled inappropriate behaviour and safety-related incidents are just a few of the scenarios that play on the HR manager’s mind. We don’t relax until everyone has gone home.

So how can you plan a perfect office party that goes to plan?

Be inclusive

Before you jump in and book the venue, ask for feedback on last year’s event. Did you nail it, or was it more of a quasi-success? For instance, you had a ton of great food, but the vegetarians were starving. People remember three things about a party – the first impression, the highs/lows, and what happens when they leave. Why is leaving an event so memorable you’re probably thinking? It’s the time when we evaluate our experience.

When asking your colleagues for feedback, encourage them to be as honest as possible. The more introverted people may feel reluctant to share with you how they felt about it because they won’t want to cause trouble. If they believe you genuinely value their opinion and it’s safe to do so, then hopefully they will share their experience. Some feedback questions can also include:

  • Did you like the food?
  • Did you have enough?
  • Was it easy for you to get home afterward?
  • What was the best thing about the last event?
  • What would make this event even better than last year?
  • How about a theme?

Keep things under control

The combination of an open bar, not enough food and over-excited staff can certainly make it an event to remember. On the flip side, it could alienate your non-drinkers and quieter, more conservative colleagues, which isn’t what you want. Watching John and Jane hooking up in a dark corner or aggressive and inappropriate behaviour may be a laugh to some people, but extremely offensive to others. In a public venue, this is particularly relevant as your whole business is on show. Remember, what happens at camp won’t stay in camp. Social media has also muddied the social event waters, and when things get recorded or posted online, it’s unforgetting over and over. It won’t help your online reputation either if there’s any reference to your company.

If excessive alcohol consumption has been an issue in the past, consider serving light beer and wine only (ditching the spirits) or opening the bar for a limited time.

Keep everyone engaged

Another way to move people away from the bar is to get them involved in some activities. Think about kicking off the party doing a group activity and then finish off with a meal. Alternatively, introduce some group activities like trivia, Christmas carol ‘Name That Tune’ or Kris Kringle gift exchange during the event to break things up.

Finally, there may be some employees who never attend the organisation’s functions. They may have young families and have the extra expense of paying for a sitter. For others, the events may be too far from home, they can’t invite partners, attendance is voluntary, or everyone gets blind drunk. If these are barriers to attendance, potentially offer to cover the costs of a sitter and/or Uber home after the event.

If your employees aren’t jumping for joy with the announcement of the Christmas party, you need to figure out what you’re doing wrong. You want every employee to celebrate, be happy, and feel comfortable and valued at every event.


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