The holidays are upon us, and we all know what that means: office holiday parties!
For some, office holiday parties are full of joy and mirth, an opportunity to be festive and chat with coworkers over eggnog, somewhat unbounded by the professional constraints of work. For others, it’s the most dreaded event of the season. And then there are the select few who perhaps get a little too into the holiday spirit, and end up on the receiving end of a stern talking to with their company’s HR rep.
The best office holiday parties take into account these different personalities (and potential dangers), and provide a fun, easy-going event that reflects their organization’s inclusive culture while still maintaining some semblance of order and mutual respect.
But how can you plan an office holiday party that doesn’t go completely off the rails the minute the overproof eggnog makes its debut? And how do you prepare for the Scrooges out there? No offense, Scrooges.
This article looks at five alternative office holiday party ideas that are, so to speak, “safe-for-work.” Let’s take a look.
1. Volunteer together
This one’s not a party, per se, but it’s a way to bond with coworkers while doing some good deeds (and we all know Santa loves good deeds). Your team could volunteer at the YMCA, run a food drive, feed people at a homeless shelter, pick up trash on the side of the highway, you name it. The holidays are all about the joy of giving, right?
Volunteering with colleagues is an excellent way to strengthen teams, bond with coworkers, and establish a sense of purpose for your organization. It’s a way of recognizing the true meaning of the holidays.
“But how is this fun?” Fair question. After your people have volunteered with their colleagues, they’ve effectively earned their right to let loose a little. This is where the ‘party’ in office holiday party begins. Celebrate your good deeds with a trip to a restaurant or the local pub, or even back to the office for some moderate-proof eggnog. (Eggnog is kind of a running theme in this post, you’ll find. No reason.)
2. Play a team sport
Playing sports is fun, especially when they’re non-competitive, relatively straightforward, and very silly. Like curling. One of my most memorable office holiday parties was at a curling club. We were taught to curl by a man whose whole identity is built around curling, whose calling is to curl, which as you can imagine was strange and amazing. Eye-opening, really.
Getting your teams to converge on some sort of winter sport center, effectively taking over the establishment for the night, and playing a weird sport—poorly—is really fun and great for getting people out of their shell. Throw in some burgers, beers, and 80s hair metal and you’ve got the makings of an unforgettable office party. Add eggnog at your own peril.
3. Don’t have one
OK, this one is mostly a joke, but it might also be the right fit for your organization (you’ll have to figure that one out on your own). Instead of spending money on a holiday party, a lot of companies give out gifts to their employees. These can be gift cards, dinners, money, or anything really. Just make sure everyone gets a gift of equal value, otherwise you risk alienating some of your employees. And that’s not very festive.
It’s true that some people really enjoy their office holiday parties, and appreciate them more than they would a gift certificate. To make sure you’re not upsetting your people, you can poll them to assess if gifts are a good idea. People will appreciate the fact that management has taken the initiative to ask people how they’d like to celebrate.
4. Make something
If done right, office holiday parties can be productive, even creative events. This can be as simple as baking something delicious as a team, making some holiday decorations and crafts for each other, or decorating the office together.
You could add an element of competition to the mix with a gingerbread house building contest or raffling off that handcrafted Santa sculpture that Bob in Accounting spent months carving out of a single block of marble, the big showoff.
This doesn’t have to happen in lieu of a party either. Larger companies often incorporate some kind of creative activities to make sure everyone is entertained. Some other ideas: a cocktail mixing lesson (ahem, eggnog), arts and crafts stations, have a professional chef show up to teach people the correct way to make fruitcake.
5. Party games
Pin the nose on the Rudolph, Christmas charades, white elephant, Secret Santa exchange—these are just some of the options you have available to you if your organization loves games. These are great for getting people to loosen up, participate, mingle, and generally just have more fun with colleagues.
You could also try holiday trivia, for example:
Q: This anthropomorphic half-goat half-demon figure from Central European folklore is a companion of Saint Nicolas and is known for punishing children who misbehave.
A: Krampus (Google it.)
You can get creative with your trivia questions, or feel free to use the cheerfully festive one above.
If any of these ideas sound like they’d be right for your organization, give ‘em a try. I recommend trying a combination of a few of them to give all your people (who are diverse and lovely, no doubt) a way to have a fun gathering. Failing that, there’s always eggnog...