‘Tis the season for the office party … for many companies this will be the first company-sponsored social gathering since the COVID shutdown in 2020. How do you make sure that your party 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 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:
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!
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