Planning your end-of-year Christmas party? Here are 5 pitfalls to avoid

Happy people dancing at party

‘Tis almost the season to be jolly. And that means many HR departments will be planning, or finalising details for, the office Christmas party.

The end-of-year party is a perfect opportunity to bring the whole company together to celebrate business achievements and thank the team for all their hard work. Yet, making sure it’s a fun occasion for all isn’t always as straightforward as it should be.

So, read on to make sure you’ve planned for the potential pitfalls, followed by a positive reminder of why your hard work will be worth it.

1. Ensure your party is inclusive

When planning your office party, it’s important to ensure that the event is enjoyable while also being inclusive. It’s wise to consider how your party plans align with your business values and objectives.

Remember, it’s possible that not all your employees celebrate Christmas. To avoid any risk of prejudice, consider making it a more neutral “year-end party” and plan an inclusive event that acknowledges and respects diverse cultures and beliefs.

2. Encourage attendance while making it clear that it’s not obligatory

Some employees may feel an obligation to attend the office party, even though the idea causes anxiety.

There may be all kinds of reasons employees may choose to give the party a miss. They may have pressing family commitments, social anxiety, or simply be worried about looking bad in front of co-workers or managers if they let their hair down. 

Make sure you encourage people to attend, while acknowledging that it’s in no way compulsory.

3. Remind employees that the party is a work event

While no-one wants to be a party pooper, be sure to set out clear behaviour guidelines as to what’s acceptable on the night itself.

Taking the time to remind staff that the Christmas party still constitutes a work-related event can help to set the tone of expectations from the start.

You may wish to make it clear that while employees are encouraged to have fun, the rules of your workplace still apply.

In the weeks and days leading up to the party, provide clear guidance on standards of behaviour to ensure that everyone understands that the Christmas party is a professional event.

4. Exercise caution when it comes to alcohol

You may be keen to repay your hardworking team with a generous bar allowance. You may even go so far as making it a free bar all night.

Yet free alcohol can come with problems, so it’s wise to exercise a note of caution.

While you may not be able to prevent employees from having “one too many”, you could consider limiting the amount of free alcohol available. Also, make sure you provide non-alcoholic options too.

Issuing free drinks tokens, with a set number available for each partygoer, is another way to help to keep alcohol consumption under control.

And remember to watch out if you have any employees who are not yet old enough to drink.

5. Be ready to manage the morning after

After drinking, dancing, and partying the night away, think about the morning after.

If your party happens to fall on a weekday, make sure all staff are aware of what’s expected from them the following day.

Maybe you could consider a later morning start, or an earlier finish time? Or might it be possible to stagger working hours across teams?

Ultimately, laying out exactly what you expect from people could help avoid late night and alcohol-related absences.

Even with contingency plans in place, there’s a strong potential for employees to be absent or turn up late. So, you’ll need to decide how to respond.

The simple path may be to exercise a degree of leniency. But if you wish to “dock pay”, make sure you have contractual rights to do so.

Alternatively, if you wish to take a hard-line, you may want to stress this to employees before the party. It may also be prudent to have someone checking that employees don’t arrive at work still drunk – this is crucial if their job involves driving or operating machinery.

Take the time to share your gratitude and a company review

At the end of a year of hard work, bringing everyone together to celebrate the holidays is the ideal time to share a review of the year with your entire company.

Organise for the CEO to share highlights and business accomplishments over the last 12 months. And use the time to look ahead to the coming year by setting expectations and goals to look forward to in the new year.

While this is all important for morale and engagement, remember that this is a party – so remind speakers to stay on message and keep it short. Nobody wants or needs the equivalent of War and Peace when there’s a party to enjoy!

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