The holiday season is full of great opportunities to celebrate – Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and your company holiday party! Employees appreciate the recognition of their hard work, and a year-end holiday party is a perfect way to celebrate. While some businesses have decided to forego company-sponsored festivities altogether to avoid liability and costs, there are some steps you can take to protect both yourself and your employees. Read on to learn how you can still host a great event (with just a few HR guidelines in place!).
Cover Your HR Bases
Assess the Liability
Keep business-related activities during the event to a bare minimum. OSHA and many courts have determined that employers requiring employees to participate in a company event makes it work-related. That means any injuries that occur are recordable and an employer liability under workers’ compensation rules.
Reach out to your insurance provider to determine if you will need to make any adjustments to your company insurance policy for the day(s) and venue where your event will be held. For example, holding the holiday party at an ice-skating rink instead of a restaurant poses a different level of risk exposure.
Communicate Casual and Careful
Your company should clearly communicate to each employee that participation in such company events is completely voluntary. Also, review with the managers and remind all employees of the relevant emergency, health, and safety guidelines.
Promote Policies and Practices
Establish or update your company’s applicable Employee Handbook policies (i.e. professional conduct, drug & alcohol use, and harassment prevention). Consider related situations which may arise such as employees choosing not to attend. You also may want to have employees and their guests sign a release of liability.
Prepare Your Disaster Plan
Plan effectively to address employees who may get into an accident or blatantly ignore your company’s reminders/warnings for appropriate behavior. For example, if you plan to serve alcohol and certain employees over-indulged, have you arranged pre-designated drivers, a taxi-cab support program, and/or security staff?
Take the Lead
Every event needs strong and positive leadership which is accountable for the tone of the event planning and the event itself. Especially during the holidays, company gatherings can be a fantastic and festive way to thank your employees. Plan these events with everyone’s safety and well-being in mind, and you will be well on your way to a celebration of great success!
Now Make it Awesome!
Now that HR is out of the way, it’s time to plan your party! This is your time to give everyone a chance to mingle and bond outside of the office. So why not make this your most fun and memorable event yet? Play around with these ideas to make your holiday bash the talk of the break room well into the new year!
1. Pick a Theme
Perhaps the most important element of your holiday party, the theme is what will hold everything else together. Pick a theme that will set the mood for the evening, and that is unique and different from past events. You could always stay festive with a winter or Christmas themed party. For example, White Christmas or Santa’s Workshop. Alternatively, you could do something unrelated to the holidays like Red Carpet or Around the World.
2. Games Galore!
Games are a great way to introduce a playful and fun vibe to your event before and after your main program or meal. Some companies opt to rent casino games, giving each guest a handful of chips to begin with and the option to cash out for prizes at the end of the night. (A good alternative to purchasing gifts for everyone!) Or, you could try an SDP favorite and play a few rounds of company Family Feud! (No joke, we play this at the beginning of every company-wide meeting.) Board games, card games, and giant Jenga are all great options as well.
3. Take a Picture… It’ll Last Longer
No matter your budget, make sure you have a way to document the party. This could be as simple and budget-friendly as having a volunteer “photographer” take iPhone pictures all night in front of a DIY backdrop with props from the dollar store (or someone’s closet!). For a higher-end option, you could hire a photographer, rent a photo booth, or even have photo books printed as a special memento from the party.
4. Company Competition
One SDP Christmas Party tradition is to have a company-wide competition at our holiday party. Before the event, all our employees are divided into teams for either a dance battle, lip sync battle, or something similar. Groups get to practice and coordinate costumes in advance, leading up to a grand performance at the party. The guests and any non-participants all vote on a winning team, and the winners are awarded a cash prize to split. Things always get crazy and hilarious, and it’s a hit every time!
5. Shop Local
Our last (and probably best!) recommendation is to shop locally. We’re big believers in supporting the local business community. Why? Because when you shop small, those dollars stay in your community. You’re supporting your fellow entrepreneurs and at the same time funding local improvements with your tax dollars. Not only that, but building relationships with local businesses is also a great way to grow partnerships (and get discounts!). For example, the restaurant down the street may be able to provide you with discounted catering if your cleaning company is able to offer discounted services in kind.
- Do not make the event mandatory and clearly communicate that attendance is optional.
- Avoid any work-related activities, and if possible hold the event offsite and outside of regular business hours.
- Set expectations around respectful behavior and encourage employees to drink responsibly.
- Have a plan to ensure that no minors or visibly intoxicated attendees are served alcohol.
- Avoid entertainment and event locations that may be potentially dangerous, provocative, or offensive.
- Plan for how employees who have been drinking will get home.
- Provide ample food and non-alcoholic beverages. (For safety reasons and so non-drinkers know you’ve given them consideration!)
- Have fun!
What do you think?
We hope these tips make your holiday bash a bang…and HR approved! If you find any of these ideas helpful, let us know by sharing a pic from your holiday party with the hashtag #SmileWithSDP! Want to learn more ways to grow your HR department, strengthen your team, and streamline your business? Log in to your HR Support Center for even more resources and articles, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to make sure you never miss a beat!