It’s around this time of year that some poor person at every company gets tasked with the near impossible job of find a great company holiday party idea. Often, this includes a terribly modest budget paired with a confident employer who just knows you’ll figure out “something great.” For those poor souls, here’s a creative guide to organizing this year’s company holiday shindig.
Last year, trends included spending more money on the food, having flexible seating, offering some form of entertainment at the party, and including some form of team building opportunity. To organize your event this year, you can use any of the ideas below and pair it with one of last year’s trends. My personal favorite is hosting the party during the workday so that employees aren’t rushing home after work to get dressed…just to essentially come back to work (especially when parties are hosted at the office, which for the record is very lame). The in-between time between work and the start of an evening party is even more awkward for employees that have a long commute; it leaves them stranded for a couple hours waiting for this next work event to start.
1. Holiday Charter – How much fun would it be to host your party on a charter boat? You might be stuck with the same people but being in a totally different environment makes even the dullest person look a little more interesting. Holiday charter boats are far more affordable than you’d think, especially if you book yours off-season – say at the end of November. Plus the party doesn’t have to end just because the cruise did. You can open up an option for people to continue at a local eatery or bar nearby, making it clear that that expense wouldn’t be covered by the company.
2. Opt for Off Season – In fact, having a completely off-season party lets you get a lot more bang for your buck. You could host an entire day on a charter boat and head over to some interesting nearby towns or island, rather than spending the same amount of money on a boat for just a couple of hours. You can do just about anything off season and have it be cheaper. How about wine tasting at a local vineyard or a stay overnight at a beach house, or even two business days spent camping with the team.
Having your “yearly party” in January is also a great way to bring the team back after a holiday season. Of course, you’d be a Grinch if you didn’t recognize the holiday season some way. So if an off-season party is looking good to you, try giving employees a paid day off on Christmas Eve or before Christmas Eve so they can finish up their holiday shopping.
3. Give Everyone a “Shopping Day” – On that note, my favorite idea so far comes from Suzanne Lucas, who writes an Inc. article titled “How to Throw a Great Holiday Party – Cheap!” Lucas recommends you “close the office at noon on a Wednesday and send everyone home, with pay. Label it a shopping day. If you’ve got the funds, give everyone a $50 gift certificate to the local mall, grocery store, or department store. (If you do the money thing, make sure to check with payroll about the tax requirements about this–and good employers always gross up such things so their employees don’t have to pay taxes on a “present.”) If you can’t shut the whole office, let everyone have a half (or whole) day off that doesn’t count against their vacation time and let them take it sometime in December.”
4. Join Forces – Something I haven’t seen yet but which should really be considered is joining forces with another business. This is especially a brilliant idea if it won’t cost you much more to add more people. So with joined forces, you could rent out a better space, maybe get better food/drinks – and, best of all, it’s a great opportunity to meet new people. Obviously, if you’re going this route, it’s important to team up with a complimentary company or at least nearby, like a neighboring business.
And that’s really the idea – to have the party be a celebration rather than just another work commitment that’s little more than an inconvenience. In fact, some employees would even rather receive a holiday bonus they can put toward their holiday shopping rather than have employers spend upwards of $2500 on a lackluster event. So in a nutshell, if you can’t host a great party, then offer those funds as a holiday bonus.
If you’re really stuck between two ideas, you can always create an online survey for employees to take. The completely anonymous survey will really shed light into what your team members would be happier with, rendering the decision making process that much easier.
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