Workplace Holiday Parties Are Back! 

After these past two years of virtual parties, many employees are ready to let loose and have a good time.

Returning to the workplace after two years, risks, laws, and policies may have been forgotten, by both the company and its employees.

Is the company hosting a holiday party this year? Well, in order to avoid, or limit complications, consider this: A few weeks prior to the holiday party, HR might consider sending out a brief reminder about company policies on sexual harassment, code of conduct, and behavior that constitutes discipline, to ALL employees.

Naturally, it isn’t the most welcoming precursor to a holiday party, but a necessary one, for all involved. It shows due diligence by the company, and a helpful reminder to the party-animals in your employ.

Consider these 11 points before you book it:

1. Location: Where you hold the party can dictate several things. If held on the company’s premises during work hours, or immediately after, there is still a sense of on-the-job behavior. Holding it in the evening, or on a weekend, lends itself to a more laid-back attitude, as well, as encourage uninvited plus-ones.

2. Time of Party: Always include a start and end time. A lengthy party, or ending too late, increases the chances of overdrinking. It can also make it difficult for parents to plan for babysitting, and employees may leave early to attend other functions. Additionally, if held after work hours, you may have employees arriving already buzzed. Consider a two-hour gathering with light refreshments. Three-hour if a hearty buffet or a meal is included.

3. Theme: Festive. End-of-year celebration. Unless your company has a religious component, service or product, try to avoid specific overtly religious décor. Due to personal beliefs, some employees may have to decline.

4. Guest List: Are you extending this invitation to all employees? Is this exclusively for employees, or can they bring a guest? Are children allowed? If not, have a plan on how you will handle it.

5. Serving Alcohol: Open bars are a thing of the past. Some companies provide each employee with one drink ticket; beyond that, it is up to the employee to purchase. Consider these potential dilemmas: Will minors present? How will you control alcohol or other mind-altering products from being smuggled in? Are there employees who struggle with alcoholism, or have religious convictions who will feel uncomfortable or left out?

6. Incognito Monitor: Some people may frown on this idea because if discovered, it could be perceived by guests as spying. Basically, it is. This designated person(s), merely strolls about to assess an over-drinker, or step in if there’s a heated conversation that is about to get nasty.

7. Transportation: If alcohol is involved, will you be supplying complimentary transportation? How will employees be notified? Are there any restrictions, such as, ending time for this service, no more than X miles from starting point, non-stop, etc. Be very clear.

8. Making it Mandatory: It can be mandatory if the holiday party is held during work hours. Explicitly state that this is work related with “holiday refreshments” to follow.  Are there exceptions if they don’t attend? Are there consequences? Again, make the guidelines or expectations very clear prior to the event.

9. Expensive Party, or the Illusion: If times are lean, there is a dim forecast for next year, there have been recent lay-offs, or bad press in the news, it may not be a good time to splurge on a party. This can drive a wedge between management and employees. Consider a complimentary lunch order for everyone, a small bonus, gift card, or time off.

10. Purpose: Is the purpose of this party to celebrate the company’s expansion, reaching goals, bonuses all-around, or a time to mingle and reconnect? Unless otherwise stated in the invitations, except for the ‘welcome’ speech, don’t use this platform to announce next year’s numbers, lay-offs, etc. No bad news!

11. Opportunities: Take time to meet and greet employees. Keep the conversation casual and don’t get too intense about work-related matters. If an employee should bring up a matter, listen, and recommend they speak to (appropriate contact).

Final Thoughts: With the liability that goes with hosting a party, whether on or off the premises, consider these options:  A gift card along with:

• A hosted breakfast buffet. Consider having management play “servers.” This will allow both management and staff to mingle.

• A lunch spread, surprising everyone with an early dismissal.

• Giving everyone a paid day off.

• Adopting and giving to an organization or cause on behalf of your employees may sound great, however, the “organization” may not align with an employee’s personal beliefs. I recommend you consult your legal team.


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