'Tis the season for holiday shopping, family gatherings, and office parties! While the typical office party often includes an awkward Secret Santa gift exchange where everyone pretends to like his or her gift, or a holiday happy hour where someone has too much to drink, the modern holiday party should be refreshing, low-cost, and low maintenance.
For some inspiration, check out what these companies do for their employees to keep them happy and productive. For what not to do, just watch some reruns of The Office.
When planning a successful holiday party that everyone will enjoy, the focus should be less on spending money and more on bonding with co-workers and boosting morale. Here are five ideas for a holiday party that will be sure to get employees feeling merry.
1. Involve The Invitees
If you want the most buy-in from the staff, get them involved! Ask your co-workers what kind of food, themes, and activities they want to have at their office party. People are more inclined to participate and enjoy something, no matter how cheesy, when they are given choices and are involved in the planning and organizing.
Not only does that relieve some of the pressure on the party organizer, but it creates more opportunities for employees to bond and work together on something outside of daily, stressful work responsibilities.
2. Bring Some Bites
If there's one rule of thumb when it comes to parties, it's that food brings people together. If you're on a budget, cross that caterer off your list and have people sign up for a potluck (and the food shouldn't have to be homemade).
If your co-workers have more of a sweet tooth, have a cookie or treat baking (or buying) contest and have everyone vote for their favorites! Avoid leftovers by having a cookie exchange where people can take the rest of the tray home with them and maybe even trade recipes. Or you could set up a cookie decorating station with plain sugar cookies, icing, and sprinkles.
3. Think Of A Theme
A great way to get people in the spirit is to create a holiday ambiance—so get ready to deck the halls and rock around the Christmas tree! Instead of the traditional stockings and candy canes, consider a theme based on a favorite Christmas movie like National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, anything tacky or ugly, or celebrate like it's the 80s again (see: tacky).
With this theme in mind, you can organize some fun games and contests such as cubicle-decorating, gingerbread house-building, an ugly sweater contest, or movie and music trivia. For the 80s, you could bring your favorite childhood board games or a ping pong table, and for the 90s, you could lip-sync to Macaulay Culkin's rendition of "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas."
4. Make Memories
Of course, not everyone likes games, and that's okay! On the other hand, no special occasion would be complete without the photo op.
Create your own backdrop by covering a wall with holiday wrapping paper and decorations and buy some cheap props at the dollar store. You could even have someone dress as Santa (or have a stuffed stand-in) so people can sit on Santa's lap. People can use their smartphones to take selfies of themselves with their besties, but don't forget the honorary group photo: one smiling, one crazy, of course! If you are all really feeling daring, why not try a human pyramid?
5. Consider Off-Campus
Maybe you've spent so many hours inside your office chained to your desk that you'd rather get some fresh air or perhaps office parties at your company have gone stale. Then you should consider some alternatives that can bring co-workers together within a different context or that connect your company with the community.
For example, nothing says "spirit of giving" more than volunteering. You could organize a day to volunteer at the local food bank or animal shelter, participate in a fundraiser like a 5K walk, or use a service like Volunteermatch to find other local opportunities. If you want to feel like kids again, go ice-skating or go on a walking tour of the holiday lights downtown.
Notice that nowhere did this list suggest buying gifts. Of course, if you have some extra cash, no employee would turn down a holiday bonus or extra paid vacation day.
While presents can be fun, instead your goal could be to include someone who is often left out or thank someone for something they did for you during the year. The focus of the holidays should be more on sharing memories, showing your appreciation, and spending quality time with your work family than material things.
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