Office parties can be a boom or a bust, and unfortunately, many of us have suffered through more than a few busts. It is a challenging and delicate balance to get colleagues together in an enjoyable social capacity, but it can be done.
Here are 5 considerations for throwing your next office party to ensure your next event is a boom!
1. Determine the objective—and make it clear
When planning your next office social event, make sure the goal and objective of the event is clear to those attending. Don’t leave your colleagues wondering:
● Is it a closed-invitation, employees-only party?
● Are plus-ones invited?
● Should I leave the kids at home?
● Is this event strictly social, or are we forming a brain trust for the next annual conference?
● Is attendance optional or mandatory?
● Am I expected to present an update or pitch?
● Will there be team-building exercises?
● How long will the party be?
● What is the attire?
The party invitation should make the objective clear and answer all of the above questions. That way, attendees can make informed decisions and can arrive feeling certain about their role and the expectations of the event.
2. Be inclusive and accommodating
One struggle with gathering office employees at a social event is that it’s quite possible one of the only things you (knowingly) have in common with each other is your employer. Depending on the size of your office and the field of the work, you could potentially have a whole crew of mismatched people trying to fumble through small talk with each other.
In order to be as inclusive and accommodating as others, consider:
● Not scheduling events during off-work hours. Maybe a luncheon on a Wednesday is the best way to go. That way, there are no additional issues finding childcare, and there is less of an opportunity to schedule the event during a time when some employees may be: caring for their ailing parents, volunteering their time, participating in religious worship, etc.
● Offering a variety of food options. Some people may have dietary restrictions, food allergies, or religious reasons for avoiding the spread at the party. Make sure the food you are offering is well-labeled, and if possible, inform staff in advance what the food options will be so they can plan in advance if they do have restrictions or allergies to contend with.
● Keeping it PC. It should go without saying, but certain topics should be off-limits at any office or corporate event. Maintain a certain level of political correctness when speaking with the people you share office space with. There will be exceptions, of course, but in general, be sure to avoid talk that veers too closely to the realm of the political, the religious, and/or the personal. If you have a friendship with a colleague where these topics are not off-limits, relegate those topics to private conversations amongst yourselves.
3. Provide catering options with variety
When choosing food for the event, think again about inclusiveness--as well as variety. Consider a spread that is heavy in fruits, vegetables, and other whole foods. Also consider providing build-it-yourself food stations with meals that can be easily customized to include/exclude ingredients.
Providing food stations such as these is a great way to ensure that almost anybody with any kind of food allergies or dietary restrictions can find something to eat at the event. And, if there is a staff member you know has dietary restrictions, consider checking in with them before ordering to be sure that their needs are represented at the event.
Since assembly-line, buffet-style meals are so party-friendly, consider a restaurant like Chipotle for your office party catering needs. Meat-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free options can all be accommodated by Chipotle catering.
4. Think clean, “all ages” entertainment
There might be a noticeable age gap among your staff, so choosing entertainment to appease all can be difficult. If you are opening the event to families, the age gap will grow even greater.
Establishing a theme can help in choosing appropriate, “all ages” entertainment. For example, the party theme can be centered around a particular decade, or a popular movie franchise that has stood the test of time, or a non-religious holiday. This opens the door to fun, albeit potentially kitschy fun—but by choosing themes that you can guarantee most everyone has familiarity with, you are providing a fun, clean, safe, and inclusive atmosphere.
5. Institute drink limits
Lastly, and potentially the most important: institute drink limits. Libations are often correlated with a fun party atmosphere, but remember: these are your colleagues, including your bosses and/or your direct reports.
Providing a bar is a wonderful gesture, but to prevent the event from souring, nix the open bar and consider setting all attendees up with a limit of two drink tickets. Most of us have been on the receiving end of an uncomfortable encounter with a colleague who has been over-served (and some of us have been the overserved colleague). This is preventable by having some checks and balances in place, and though employees might grumble about the drink limit, it is best for both their safety and their posterity.
By following these 5 considerations for throwing your next office party, your next celebration will be a hit!