We are at the precipice of the holiday office party season. And for most employees, we are also just around the corner from the end year office party. If you have the task of planning this much-anticipated event for your team, then you need to start thinking about it now if you haven’t already.
This year’s holiday office party will be different for most companies because the pandemic upended normal working schedules. While some teams have just returned to their physical workspaces, others have adopted remote working permanently. As the first in-person work events in a long while, upcoming office parties will be opportunities to nurture the human connections that have been strained by working in virtual workspaces. For those who will not be returning to offices, the office party may be their only chance to be in the same room with their colleagues again.
The end year office party does not necessarily need to be a “Christmas party.” There are endless theme options for any team, even those who don’t celebrate Christmas. What kind of individuals do you have in your team, how many are they, what will make them feel appreciated and help them bond? These are all questions to consider as you make your choice.
Customers Meet Employees Office Party
While the end year office party is traditionally for appreciating employees, it can be broadened to include your customers to celebrate everyone involved in the success of a business. A black-tie event or a simple sit-down dinner could be a great way to make your attendees feel valued. You could host it at a hotel venue or decorate your office for the occasion to lessen your costs. Include thoughtful party favors like a bottle of wine or scented candles for each attendee to take home, and you will have pulled off a successful customer and employee appreciation.
Bring In A Special Guest
Every team has a particular public figure that they admire or simply find entertaining. It could be a politician, philanthropist, spiritual teacher, or a performer like a comedian or a particular band. It could be a great surprise for your employees or co-workers to book this person to perform at your office party. Remember, your employees will have various other holiday events beckoning for their attention. However, if you have their favorite band performing at the year-end office party, you are guaranteed attendance and participation!
A Virtual House Party
Your company may be one of those who have adopted remote working permanently. However, the last thing you want is for the team to feel like they have lost the camaraderie of their colleagues. A virtual “house-party” could send a positive message to employees and let them know their comfort is valued and they are not isolated. Depending on the size of your team, you can create breakaway rooms or have a “show and tell” theme, for example, a dress-up challenge where each person has to explain their outfit or a cooking challenge where each person presents their meal. It does not have to be complicated. With a few things taken care of before time, like sending everyone party kits and any hardware they may need like headphones or microphones, your party will be a virtual success.
There is always a way to incorporate giving into the theme of an office party. It can even be the central aspect of the party. This may be especially welcomed by employees of a non-profit organization. Or employees who work in fields not directly associated with philanthropy and want to focus more on their corporate social investment. You could plan a day out in a community garden or have a gift drive where your employees spend time with the less fortunate, giving them gifts sponsored by the company. This will allow your employees to spend time together in a different setting. And also give new meaning to the work your company does.
Each person in the workplace has at least one or two other abilities that are not listed in their job description. So why not provide a stage for your employees to get to know each other better by showing their unknown talents? Your office party could be a “Talent Show” where each person performs an act for their co-workers. You can have a prize for the acts who get the loudest applause or the most votes to make it even more exciting. If you really want to reward employees with your party, you could also do an “Awards Show” party. This would take a lot more planning as you would need to create categories of awards, have all your co-workers vote before the party, and source the prizes in a way that won’t break your budget.
A Battle Of The Recipes
An end year office party may be a luxury that seems out of reach for some teams due to food, décor, and entertainment costs. But what if you could circumvent this by letting employees bring their own food and make that the party’s theme? The answer; a competitive potluck dinner.
Most people cannot resist competition. Some employees may be grateful for an opportunity to show off their cooking skills. To make sure it doesn’t feel like another cheap “bring and share,” you can complicate the brief. For example, ask each employee to bring a dish that best represents their culture or heritage. You will be surprised at the quality of food you will have at your office party, and there will definitely be a surplus.
A game night is a classic office party theme, and it is never a miss as it allows co-workers to kick back into their playful side. You can add a twist to your game night by giving it a theme, for example, a throwback game night where employees bring their favorite childhood games like video game consoles, stickers, or old board games. This would be a great way for co-workers to get to know each other better by sharing memories. If your team is more of the rowdy type, you could also add mini basketball hoops or a foosball table and kick up a fiery tournament. No one will want to leave!
Taking your team out of the office environment for a celebration is a great office party hack; all you have to do is pick the right location. A lunch or dinner at a luxurious venue like a hotel or a resort is guaranteed success or just a relaxed party at a house rented through Airbnb. You could also opt for outdoor activities like a group hike or a surfing class.
Suppose you don’t have the financial resources for literal traveling. In that case, you can have a traditional office party at your office with an exotic theme, for example, “Hawaii” or “Going on Safari.” Travel can also be time-travel. Your theme could be a celebration of the decades with people dressing up in the iconic style of their favorite era. Or you could assign periods to different departments, for example, the hippie 60s to Finance, the disco 70s to Marketing, the euphoric 80s to HR, and the nostalgic 90s to Sales.
Teamwork Makes The Dream Work
An office party can also be an excellent opportunity to improve teamwork. You can create a scavenger hunt around the office space or the entire building (or even a virtually, like this one from Broadly Entertaining). You can even go bigger with an “Amazing Race” type of competition where co-workers take part in different challenges scattered around your city. This type of office party will also take much planning. You will need to decide on your pit stops, detours and rewards well before time and make sure all the instructions make sense and the challenges are doable.
A more affordable option that can occur physically or remotely is a murder mystery party where your team can work together to solve a fictional murder case.
Let Them Have Alcohol
Your team may also just want to relax and converse without any expectations whatsoever. Throw a Happy Hour party and treat them to a wide range of alcohol. You can do holiday-themed cocktails, bring in a mixologist, or even a mobile bar. If your team is working remotely, you can have Happy Hour Kits delivered to their houses. Remember to include non-alcoholic options to avoid any exclusions.
It Makes A Difference
Your office party can make a significant difference to how your team feels about the year, and so the sooner you decide on what it will be, the better. Make sure to inform your team well before time of any rules and restrictions. For example, if there is a limit to the bar or a specific time you all have to vacate the venue, communicate it in your invitation. Unclear communication can easily lead to your hard work going unnoticed because of a few misunderstandings. Don’t cut corners, but if you must, make it look intentional!