All Fields Required

How to Plan an Office Holiday Party


The holidays are here and you've decided to do something nice for your employees by throwing a company party.

You're in good company. In a recent national survey, 79% of business owners indicated that they were planning some kind of year-end bash.

Throwing a holiday party sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast. A holiday party can turn into a holiday disaster in the blink of an eye if you don't know what you're doing.

The key to a successful holiday party is planning. If party planning isn't your forte, then either find someone else to help you or hire a professional party planner.

To start, here are some hot issues that have to be addressed.

How much am I willing to shell out?

When planning an office party, your first consideration is going to be cost. How much do you want to spend on the shindig? If your first reaction is to go cheap, don't. Instead of asking what's the least you can spend, you should be asking what's the most you can afford to spend and then do it. If you can't afford to put on a nice party, skip it until you can.

For budgeting purposes, you may want to plan on spending $75 per employee. That's the average amount spent on holiday parties, according to a recent survey of business owners. So, if you've got 10 employees, plan on spending $750 on your party. If that's too much, cut the frills — maybe doing away with free drinks, for example.

The one thing to overspend on is food. A holiday party without enough food quickly leads to cranky employees. It's better to have a modest party location with too much food than to have a nice party location without enough food.

Where will it be held?

The next thing you'll need to decide is where you are going to have your event. The office itself is rarely a good venue for an office party, especially if you are planning to serve a meal.

Some business owners opt to host the office party at their homes. Generally speaking, that's not a good idea. If your home costs an order of magnitude more than your employees' residences, you may find that your party is a big contributor to declining employee morale. If your home is too modest, employees may wonder if the business isn't doing as well as they thought.

A much better idea is to reserve space at a restaurant or party house. But don't wait until the last minute to make reservations! These places fill up fast during the holidays.

Who will be invited?

It's tempting to try to keep the cost of the holiday party down by inviting employees only — no spouses or guests. That's a mistake. Holiday parties are already difficult enough without creating the additional problem of spouses wondering why there weren't invited.

Your employees spend enough time together throughout the work week. Inviting spouses and significant others will enhance the social mood of the event and introduce some fresh faces into the mix.

How should the boss act?

This one's tricky. A holiday party is a business event, but it's also a social event. If you're the boss, you are going to have to walk a tightrope throughout the entire evening. Your employees will take their cues from you, so it's important to be friendly and congenial while at the same time maintaining a certain level of decorum.

Don't talk shop all night and don't use the holiday party to vent your frustrations. Also, while it's okay to have a drink or two, don't go overboard. A drunken boss may be the life of the party, but you'll also be a laughingstock for years to come.

Most important, don't forget to say thanks to your employees. It's the end of the year and it's time to reflect on accomplishments to date. Give credit where credit is due.

Anything else?

It's important to keep in mind that — legally speaking — an office party may be construed as a work-related event. Therefore, the sexual harassment rules that apply during the work week continue to apply at the part, even if it is not held on company property. Also, do yourself a favor and spring for a cab if an employee appears to be too impaired to safely drive him or herself home.