How to Plan a Holiday Party for the Office

In large corporations the annual holiday get-together just happens, as if by magic. Pros - or the boss's assistant - handle all the details and all the employees have to do is show up. In smaller companies and the nonprofit sector it's a different story.


  • STEP 1: Find out if your co-workers want to honor the year-end holidays. If your group is small enough, gather everyone around the conference table and discuss it; otherwise, distribute a survey. Don't expect many unanimous decisions, just strive to please the majority.
  • STEP 2: Encourage everyone to be blunt about everything from how they feel about holiday celebrations in the first place to what time of day would suit them best. An evening or weekend bash that singles might love could be a logistical nightmare for single parents or working couples.
  • STEP 3: Decide how you'll finance the festivities. Be sensitive to varying income levels within the company, as well as to all the other expenses people have at holiday time.
  • STEP 4: Ask everyone whether they'd prefer an employees-only gathering or one that includes spouses and significant others. Expect a mixed response. To some people a couples' party is a delightful evening out with their romantic partner; to others it's just one more time they have to find (and pay) a baby sitter; to still others it's a time they feel compelled to produce a date whether they want to or not.
  • STEP 5: Be prepared to throw tradition to the wind. For instance, if you've always had an event at a restaurant, have a catered lunch or after-work party instead. You'll all be able to chat more freely than you could at a restaurant table.
  • STEP 6: Plan some games and activities. By the time the office party rolls around, the holiday social scene has grown a bit stale for some folks. If your work group numbers only a dozen or so, consider playing a murder mystery game you buy in kit form (see "How to Plan a New Year's Eve Mystery Party").

Tips & Warnings

  • Many people find themselves so busy at year-end holiday time the last thing they want is another party. If that's the case in your office, consider switching your gathering to another time of year. You can celebrate just as well in July as you can in December, and you'll be guaranteed no one will have to drive home on icy roads.
  • Remember: In "office party" the emphasis belongs on the first word. By all means enjoy yourself, but don't do anything you wouldn't want to see on the front page of the company newsletter.
  • Keep an eye on alcohol consumption, especially if people will be driving home from the party. Offer soft drinks along with the liquor; serve foods high in protein and carbohydrates, which slow the absorption of alcohol; and close the bar before the party ends.

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