‘Tis the season to host your annual company holiday party—maybe. Corporate apprehension in the #MeToo era has caused organizations to consider altering the format of their holiday parties or to forgo them altogether. According to a survey conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, only 65% of companies reported plans to host a holiday party this year. Some of those who will host are eliminating alcohol or evening parties with plus-ones; other companies are scheduling get-togethers during the lunch hour. As the expectations surrounding holiday parties are shifting, parties can still be a morale booster and promote positive company culture. Regardless of your holiday party’s particular style, keep these tips in mind when throwing the company bash of the year!
Just as in any other context, we should put safety first! Ensuring employees’ safety is just as high of a priority as making sure they are having a great time. In fact, the one can’t happen without the other.
Alcohol consumption is a key concern, and limiting the total amount of alcohol served is one way to limit potential party risks. Be sure to offer a selection of non-alcoholic drinks as some guests will opt to abstain from alcohol, while those who do choose to partake will be able to switch it up and hydrate. You can also ensure employees are not pressured to drive home even after 1-2 drinks by sharing nearby overnight parking information and encouraging alternative methods of getting to and from the party, such as Uber, Lyft, public transportation, or even walking.
HAVE A PLAN
Put a plan in place on how to respond to any harassment you might observe at the soirée, or subsequent complaints that might emerge. Designate 1-2 employees, preferably human resources employees, to handle such complaints during and following the party. Brainstorm with them regarding best practices for responses in the moment, as well as in the days following the party. As always, you should have a well-articulated, written sexual harassment policy and reporting procedures, as well as a culture that promotes reporting and takes these complaints seriously.
SET AND SHARE COMPANY EXPECTATIONS
Prior to the party, send an email to all employees to not only create excitement for the party, but also emphasizing your company’s values and expectations regarding professional and respectful conduct. Acknowledge that you believe your employees already embody these values, but gently remind them that you expect everyone to continue such behavior at the party. You can also note that while attendance is not mandatory, all are encouraged to join in order to help strengthen connections and simply relax with co-workers —things that aren’t always possible during the workday.
While sharing the logistics of the holiday party also make sure employees aware that their—and their guests’—actions represent their personal and company brand. Encourage employees to plan ahead regarding transportation to and from the event—this would be a good time to offer the various transportation options listed above. Lastly, remind employees of your harassment policies and share the necessary protocol that employees should follow if they experience or observe workplace harassment.
IMPLEMENT A PLAN THAT PROMOTES INCLUSION
Some companies implement structured activities at holiday parties, not only to limit the risk of inappropriate workplace conduct, but also to promote inclusion. For example, our firm hosted a murder mystery dinner party for our holiday gathering. It was an unconventional way to the break the ice—pretending to be detectives and suspects—between one another and our plus-ones. We also participated in an optional white elephant gift exchange, humorously vying for the best prize.
Regardless of your company size, consider implementing some sort of activity or entertainment as a component of or in lieu of a party. Throwing a party with activities other than eating and drinking allows guests to engage with others they may not have connected with before, and to experience known co-workers in a new way—which is, after all, one of the goals of the holiday season. A few potential activities or entertainment options include:
- Casino-like games for raffle tickets and prizes;
- Gift exchanges with a dollar limit;
- Trivia games;
- An escape room adventure;
- A cooking or baking class;
- A photo booth or GIF booth;
Don’t be worried: fun holiday parties (with or without alcohol) are still feasible in the wake of the #MeToo era. Companies simply need to make their expectations clear, put safety at the forefront, and host a party that is inclusive of all types of party-goers.