Expressing Gratitude in the Holliest, Jolliest Way We Know How

We’ve all been to parties that we wanted to leave before we even arrived. Office-sponsored holiday parties walk the fine line between business and pleasure, but that doesn’t mean they have to be awkward to be appropriate. You don’t want your employees sitting in the corner twiddling their thumbs in their laps, glancing down at their watches every five minutes. But you also want to keep everybody at a three-drink maximum and to steer clear of the photocopy machine (or engaging in any other potentially disastrous behavior).

Expressing gratitude for your employees’ year of hard work has many benefits – namely, your employees feel appreciated. One of the most popular ways to express how valuable your employees are to the company is by throwing a holiday party. ‘Tis the season for teambuilding! Gathering together as a team to celebrate a job well done is important no matter where it’s hosted – at a specific venue or in the office itself.

“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships,” says the Harvard Mental Health Letter.

  1. Send Invites Early: Picking a convenient party date early is crucial to getting enough employees to attend to actually make it a “party.” The holiday season can often be a stressful time, full of endless events and obligations for many people. Make sure to give your employees fair notice (think two to three months) so they can plan accordingly.
  2. Set the Dress Code: Even if the party is hosted at a restaurant or bar, still have attendees dress business appropriate. You can indicate this in your invitation by noting the dress code requirements as “business casual,” “cocktail attire,” or “festive.”
  3. Lead by Example: This isn’t a sixth grade dance, so use this annual opportunity to network with people you don’t interact with on a daily basis. People like to work with people whom they know, so it is okay to let down your hair a little. When your employees see you having a good time, chances are they will feel more comfortable and follow your lead.
  4. Ensure Only Those Invited Attend: This is not the party for your co-workers to bring their mom, sister and Uncle Jim. One guest per person (specifically, their significant other) is appropriate. Make sure this is clearly stated on the invitations being sent out.
  5. If There Is a Bar (Open or Otherwise): Caution should always be used when serving alcohol at a work-sponsored event. Provide a way for employees to get home safely. If your company is paying for alcohol, ensure it is a responsible night. Whether you hire a bus, arrange for a taxi service or choose a location within walking distance, it is critical that everybody gets home safely. Also make sure to keep yourself in check and continue to lead by example.
  6. Pick a Holly Jolly Venue: Host the party somewhere fun! Think zoo, bowling alley, aquarium or indoor botanical garden. Getting a group discount for venues like these is often quite easy and might be more affordable than you may think.
  7.   Watch Your Employees, but Don’t Be a Grinch: “A responsible employer will watch out for the visibly inebriated and ensure that they have a safe and reliable way to get home from the party,” says AllBusiness. Sending an employee home early in a cab after a few too many can prevent a terrible situation. It is always better to be safe than sorry. 

Alternative Ways to Keep Party Costs Low:

  1. Throw a Belated Holiday Party: One way to keep your costs low is to reschedule an off-site party, which would normally be pricey, to January or February, after the holiday rush.
  2. Forgo an Off-Site Venue: Throw the party at your work-site during work hours. You can order pizza, soda and cupcakes — and still keep your employees happy, all while avoiding off-site holiday party expenses.
  3. Host a Potluck Soirée Instead: Some people love them, others despise them. But potlucks can be radically successful if done right. Close the office an hour or two early on the Friday before the holidays and invite everybody to bring a dish to pass. Or you could host a modified potluck at which your company provides a catered lunch, and your employees share their favorite sweet treats.
  4. Forget the Party Altogether: Give everybody a half-day or a day off instead. There’s nothing that says “thank you” more than giving your employees well-deserved time off. Gift cards also serve as a nice way to express your gratitude for a year of hard work.
  5. Host an Optional Secret Santa With a Twist: Arrange an inexpensive holiday gift exchange with a theme: ornaments, cookies, DVDs, wellness-related gifts, etc. Put a price limit on the gift exchange and have employees draw a name from a hat.