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COMPANY CULTURE / OCT. 07, 2014
version 6, draft 6

How to Plan a Trouble Free Office Party

office party

The leaves are barely off the trees, but the autumn nights have started to draw in, and in many homes and offices, the countdown to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Christmas, is well underway. This means that there will be preparations kicking off in many an office for the party season, complete with the hand-wringing that comes with this responsibility. If you are the lucky one to plan this event for your team, it can be a fretful time, picking the right venue, tone, ambiance - and all within budget and with a minimum of fuss.

Whilst you have your thinking hat on, consider these ideas to make sure your party goes off with a bang, not a whimper.

Be inclusive

Different work forces have different needs at holiday season and each office has its own company culture - if you’re thinking about Christmas time, for example, in more diverse teams, keeping the references limited to Christmas per se, might be desirable, leaving you holding a ’Winter’ or ’Festive’ Celebration. Similarly, Halloween parties might become ’Fall’ celebrations to suit all needs.

It is important to make the event accessible to all, whether that be through choosing a venue with a range of menus to suit different tastes, or keeping the costs at a low level if people are paying their own way. Holding a fabulous bash in a gorgeous hotel is no use if only the directors have pockets deep enough to come along.

If you have a high proportion of colleagues with primary carer responsibilities, who may therefore not be able to attend an evening party, couple the main event with a lunchtime buffet or some Friday night drinks so everyone can be involved in their own way.

Be clear

The last thing anyone wants is trouble at the office party - and yet it it’s the stuff that office legend and urban myth is made of. Ensure everyone understands that the party is an extension of work, and behaviour that upsets, offends, or damages the company name will not be tolerated. Depending on the team, including some detail to that effect - in as light hearted way as possible - in the invitation, might be worthwhile.

Given that alcohol is the usual source of problems at office parties, have a mind to this when arranging, ensuring for example, that there is water on dinner tables and an adequate supply of soft drinks to encourage people to pace themselves. If you are providing colleagues with some - but not all - their drinks for the evening, consider having tokens or vouchers which entitle people to a certain number of drinks each, rather than simply leaving bottles on tables. The sight of a finite source of free booze is a sure fire way to make people speed up their drinking, whilst knowing that they have, say, three or five drinks to take at any point of the night by using their tokens, tends to promote a more relaxed atmosphere.

Be safe

If people are travelling to the party by car, ensure that there are designated drivers or taxis available, by choosing a venue that is relatively easy to travel to. If relying on friendly designated drivers, from among colleagues or their families, find a way to thank them on behalf of the business, offering free soft drinks, for example, or sending flowers or another token to thank the partners who turn out in the middle of the night to make sure their beloved makes it home alright.

And once the planning is all done, the venue booked and menu chosen then you too can relax, until the night itself, ready for a party that will be remembered for all the right reasons.

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