How to Host an Appropriate Office Holiday Party

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‘Tis the season for the office party … how do you make sure that yours is merry and bright and not an opportunity for embarrassing behavior or other mishaps that will create serious problems in the workplace?

First, remember that not everyone celebrates the same religious holidays.  According to Gabrielle Dalvet “between November 1 and January 15, there are over 29 holidays observed by 7 of the world’s major religions.” Also, people from different countries or even different parts of the United States celebrate in different ways.  The last thing that you want to do is offend or make someone uncomfortable by planning a holiday event that doesn’t take individual preferences into consideration.

Second, if your office party will be held at your workplace during regular business hours and includes food prepared by your employees, make sure that food can be kept hot or cold as necessary so that it doesn’t spoil. Ask everyone bringing food to display a recipe card listing ingredients so that people with food allergies or preferences know what they can eat. Employees should be paid for their regular hours even if the office party exceeds their regular meal break.  Ask in advance for volunteers to help clean up so that the same few people don’t end up doing all the dirty work (non-exempt employees should be paid for time that exceeds 40 hours in a workweek).

Third, will alcohol be served?  If the party is being held at the workplace, the company and its owner(s) may be liable for damages caused by its drunken employees under social host laws. Consider hiring a catering service that is properly licensed and insured and that has trained bartenders who can handle alcohol-related issues.

Implement some of the following alcohol management tips even when the party is held at a restaurant or other venue where alcohol is served by professional bartenders:

  • Schedule the party on a weekday rather than a weekend (people are less likely to over-indulge if they know they are expected to show up at work the following day)
  • Limit the time to a couple of hours, perhaps 5 to 7 p.m. so that people don’t have as much time to drink
  • Invite spouses and significant others or make the party a family event
  • Serve beer and wine only, keeping liquor with high-alcohol content off the menu
  • Limit the amount of liquor served by providing drink tickets (usually two) to each person (however, people have been known to give their tickets to others so this doesn’t always work)
  • Stop serving alcohol approximately one hour before people will be leaving to drive home; provide coffee and dessert to help offset the effect of alcohol
  • Provide transportation for anyone who appears to be intoxicated – don’t let people drive when they are impaired

Fourth, the month of December (when most office parties are held) is an incredibly busy time of year for most people.  Do your employees really want an office party?  Would they prefer extra time off with pay (a couple of hours or half a day) or a gift certificate?  Or consider doing what Next Level Solutions (NLS) does – we celebrate the end of one year and kick off the beginning of another year at the end of January, a time that is usually less hectic for everyone.  NLS holds its New Year’s Party for employees and their guests (family, friends and clients) at a restaurant where professional bartenders manage the alcohol. And clean-up is handled by the wait staff!

An HR professional can help you with all of your human resources needs. From hiring the right employees, running background checks, creating employee handbooks that include anti-harassment policies and procedures, and so much more, Next Level Solutions can work with you to provide the services that you need to run your business.

 Don’t risk being out of compliance or letting your employee handbook become obsolete; give us a call today to see how we can become your human resources partner.