Preparing for holiday party season

Businessman with a party hat
Credit: bikeriderlondon/Shutterstock

If you have been to a shopping mall or watched TV recently, you have likely seen signs that Christmas and the holiday season will be here soon.

So it’s a good time to start preparing for holiday party season, whether you are a worker bee or a boss.

If you’re a boss or office party planner who has to decide how to celebrate the season in your workplace, a new survey from OfficeTeam offers some insights about what workers are wishing for.

More than half (52%) of employees interviewed said their favorite work-related holiday celebration is a company party.

Workers were asked, “In which one of the following ways would you most like to celebrate the holidays at work?” Their responses: off-site party (27%), on-site party/luncheon (25%), charitable activity such as a donation drive or volunteering as a group (24%), informal gift exchange (10%), and office decorations (9%).

A relatively few (4%) responded “I’d rather not celebrate the holidays at work.”

“Many employees look forward to the office holiday party because it offers a chance to unwind with colleagues,” said Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “These celebrations can also be the perfect opportunity to recognize people for their hard work throughout the year.”

Hosking added, “To get everyone in the holiday spirit, party organizers should involve staff members in the planning process and discuss event dates in advance.”

He offers the following dos and don’ts when planning holiday parties at work:

DON’T – Plan things just in the “nick” of time.

DO – Check venue and staff availability early on so everyone can reserve time on their calendars. If scheduling doesn’t work out during the weekends in November or December, consider holding the office holiday party during business hours or kicking off the new year with an event.

DON’T – Be a scrooge about sharing the details.

DO – Let employees know the dress code, directions and whether guests are allowed ahead of time.

DON’T – Assume it’s impossible to be frugal yet festive.

DO – Be mindful of your budget. Celebrations can be enjoyable and build camaraderie without breaking the bank.

DON’T – Have a party that’s fa-la-la-la-blah.

DO – Get employee input on location, activities and menu. Want to do something a little different than a fancy meal or gift exchange? Organizing a holiday donation drive or volunteering at a nonprofit organization can be a fun way to spread good cheer.

DON’T – Let holiday grinches ruin the fun.

DO – Generate excitement for the event in emails and the company newsletter. Also, encourage interested employees to help with planning and decorations. Don’t let the occasional no-show dampen your spirits.

DON’T – Leave anyone out in the cold.

DO – Keep celebrations nondenominational so everyone can take part in the merriment.

DON’T – Get “wrapped up” in shoptalk.

DO – Allow time to acknowledge employees for their accomplishments, but make sure activities aren’t all work-related.

As these dos and don’ts show, management plays a critical role in the office party’s success.

In fact, the study cited above found that even employees who want to celebrate, say “Bah, humbug!” to a few aspects of the traditional holiday party.

Workers were asked, “Which one of the following, if any, is your least favorite thing when it comes to office holiday parties?”

Their responses: inconvenient scheduling (27%), boring activities (21%), peer pressure to attend (16%), coworkers misbehaving (15%), and coworkers dressing inappropriately (10%). I’d love to know details about some of these!

Speaking of appearances, 41% of managers whose companies host holiday celebrations agreed with the statement, “It is an unwritten rule that employees should make an appearance at the holiday party.”

“Office parties come in a variety of forms, but nearly all offer the opportunity to get to know colleagues and executives on a more personal level, which can make work a little more pleasant and productive year round,” said Hosking.

He offers five tips for employees to make the most of the company holiday party:

  1. Mix it up. Mingle with coworkers outside your usual circle.
  2. Work the room. Try not to monopolize anyone’s time. Shorter chats allow you to meet more people.
  3. Limit shoptalk. Don’t focus on business the whole time. Come with conversation starters in mind, such as people’s holiday plans or New Year’s resolutions.
  4. Don’t be a grinch. Keep your discussions positive and upbeat. No one wants to listen to complaints. Avoid controversial topics such as politics, too.
  5. End on a high note. Show your appreciation to the host and others who worked on the event by thanking them in person or sending an email afterward.

Tag Goulet is co-founder of and Academic Director of the International Association of Professions Career College which offers certificates for dream careers online at