How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday Office Party

Picture of How to Have a Stress-Free Holiday Office Party
By Cynthia Dalton
What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day. — Phyllis Diller

“We’re Having a Party”

The holiday season can be a ton of fun for both adults and kids. The inner child excites every adult as they anticipate the brightly colored decorations, food, and “good cheer” as they share in holiday traditions. But the season can also come with a great deal of stress — strained budgets, to-do lists, and deadlines can dampen the spirit of the holidays. To top it all off, there is the office holiday party...

At the office, the words “we’re having a holiday party” can elicit happy thoughts of festive moments spent with colleagues we’ve worked with all year long or ignite an overwhelming feeling as we dread having one more box to tick off on our already ‘overbooked’ holiday schedule. What could make it worse is the horrific memories of past holiday office parties branded as boring, awkward affairs, attended more out of duty than enjoyment.

Don't Stress!

Don't stress! A holiday party at work should be a stress-free and convivial team-building event. In her article for cornerstonedynamics.com, 15 Smart And Easy Tips To Plan A Stress Free Office Party, Tatiana Czuchnowsky offers some great suggestions: “Whether you’re planning a small celebration in your office space or a large scale event for your corporate employer” to take the stress out of your office holiday party. Among her tips:

  • Seek input and approval — Ask a few of your trusted colleagues for advice and bounce your ideas off of them. They may have some excellent thoughts on venues, catering, or even entertainment ideas that you haven’t thought about. You’ll also need buy-in from upper levels of management, as they provide the budget. Approach the appropriate contact with your event outline and ideas. Go in with a few scenarios — your blue sky event at the highest cost, your preferred event at medium cost, and your low budget event — your leader(s) make the final call on your event.
  • Set your budget, be generous and stick to it — Cost out your approximate budget including food and beverage, venue, entertainment, and additional expenses [such as taxis or valet] for each guest. You’ll spend approximately $40–$75 per person for food, assume ½ bottle of wine per person for wine and 2 mixed drinks or beer per person for cocktails.
  • Book early — and I mean early! If you’re hiring a caterer or your party is at a restaurant /outside venue, you`ll need to book early to secure the supplier and space you prefer. Begin in September if you are booking a caterer/restaurant, or even a year to 6 months in advance for a larger scale venue. This will help you secure your preferred choice.
  • Have an alcohol/designated driver plan — and communicate it to attendees.
  • Take advantage of free resources for event ideas and supplier contact information — There are targeted websites such as BizBash, Meetings.com, or TSEvents that offer information on venues, caterers, entertainment options, audiovisual, décor/rentals, and event planning services throughout North America and beyond.
  • Hire an event planner — If your budget can allow for a professional event planner, it’s a great relief and it takes the pressure off of your shoulders.
  • Hire a quality caterer/bartenders/waitstaff if you are having a party at your office or outside venue (other than a restaurant) — They will ensure that food and drinks are served, appropriate rentals are secured and general clean-up is completed.
  • Have enough food & beverage — Nothing will bring a party to a close faster than not having ample food and beverages to satisfy your guests. Speak with your caterer/venue contact to ensure that amounts are accurate and include a little extra — better to have too much than not enough!
  • Book quality entertainment — It could be a DJ, band, magician, video and game machines (Whack-a-Mole, PacMan or Fussball anyone?), a Wii console, karaoke machine, live entertainment or photo booths — something to fill the void when the inevitable quiet times happen. Look at your local event guides for ideas.
  • Provide prizes/parting gifts – it’s the season for giving, after all. These can be secured as purchased or sponsored items from trusted suppliers. Even if it’s a small take away, gifts are a great way to express your appreciation for those that worked diligently throughout the year.
  • Keep speeches limited — When it comes to speeches, less is more, and should always be given by the top executive.
  • Create a critical path for your event — this document contains contact information of suppliers and key personnel, it also outlines what will be happening from start to finish at your party, including the person/organization responsible for each task. This is a great shared document. The final revised copy should be distributed to stakeholders and suppliers as it assists in keeping everyone on track and the event running smoothly.

Here are some additional suggestions:

  • Plan on including significant others in the guest list.
  • Let employees know the day, location, and time well in advance so they can plan their schedule accordingly. Ideally, send invitations via interoffice mail or email.
  • If you’ve chosen a theme, make sure it’s well-recieved by the majority of your company. You might want to consider letting everyone vote on a theme which will assure its success and give others a sense of ‘ownership’ of their own party.
  • Be sure to find out in advance if anyone has special dietary needs or allergies.
  • If your party is a small gathering at your workplace, consider a “potluck” style party and be sure everyone knows the category of food or beverage they are to contribute.
  • Follow-up with everyone to be sure they will be in attendance.
  • At the party, don’t talk about work. It’s a party! Get to know people better by exploring new, nonwork topics with them. Take an interest in their life off the clock.
  • Hire a photographer or, if your party is small, designate one person to take the ‘official’ pictures. Make sure to get at least one group photo so everyone present feels included.
  • Set a timeframe for the party so guests know when it’s time to arrive and time to leave.

With advance planning and careful attention to detail, your office party can be a great experience and an event to remember.

An Easy Holiday Treat

White Chocolate Candy Cane Oreo Bark on plate with candy canesFor candy cane lovers, here’s a link to an especially easy treat to prepare, that you can whip up should you be asked to bring a dessert item. It’s White Chocolate Candy Cane Oreo Bark, a no-bake treat that just screams “Holidays!” As the creator of this indulgence, Sabrina Snyder says:

"One of the most classic desserts you can make is White Chocolate Candy Cane Oreo Bark. It’s the perfect, crunchy mixture of rich melted white chocolate and crushed candy canes with chunks of tasty Oreos mixed in, and you can serve it up at a Christmas party or hand it out as a DIY holiday treat at the office."

For the recipe, visit dinnerthendessert.com, White Chocolate Candy Cane Oreo Bark.

What do you think?

  • Do you experience stress during the holidays?
  • Do you enjoy holiday office parties?
  • What advice do you have for a stress-free holiday office party?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

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