How to Host a Company Holiday Party your Employees Want to Attend

Dig out your holiday sweaters. It’s time to party.

still from the office showing an office christmas party
Hopefully it won’t be this awkward.

It’s that time of year again--the infamous work party. In recent years employers have said “screw it” when it comes to the holiday party--in fact, up to 30% of employers did not throw one in 2015, up from 13% compared to 2012, according to a Society for Human Resources Management study.

You can understand why--they’re expensive, they’re a hassle to plan and employees already have enough obligations during the holiday season, right?

Why You Should Have One Anyway

office christmas party
Oh come on, it’s gonna be great!

It builds culture.

If you’re working to build (or maintain) that company culture, the holidays are a great time to do that. The company culture influences the workplace, whether someone wants to work for you and can even affect your brand--which is essential to selling your product.

If you want to focus on individual achievement, you can hold an awards ceremony during the party. If you want your image to be a charismatic, funny one, consider having employees (the more easygoing ones) get roasted at your party. If you’re focused on establishing strong customer relations, invite clients to the party. It all goes into building the culture.

It boosts morale.

Ending the year on a high note that shows how much you appreciate your employees leaves them with a high opinion of their company and their work (and you, but who’s counting?). It’s a good way to relax at the end of the year and unwind from any and all harsh year-end deadlines. It can also rejuvenate your staff so that they’re ready to kick of the New Year at full speed.

It helps you and your employees get to know each other.

Getting to know your employees as fully fleshed out people rather than just your workforce is important for teams to succeed. Interacting with your employees at a social event is a great way to do this. By listening and interacting in a low stress setting, you can get a better idea of how to work with your team in a professional setting, and grow closer to your staff.

Having an all inclusive party will also help employees from different areas get to know one another. Employees bonding is a key part of team building, which will garner the best results for your business.

And regardless of the bottom line, it’s fun to get to know people, especially in such a festive setting! There’s cookies and bad sweaters all around!

So Now You’re Totally Having One, Right?

happy coworkers wearing santa hats
Your employees will be as excited as these guys are. Well, maybe not if you don’t serve alcohol.

Then you’re going to need a checklist. Here’s everything you need to ensure you have a holiday party your employees actually want to attend.

First, Some Bookkeeping

pen on a calendar that reads "holidays"
Setting a date early on is good to ensure attendance.

This is probably the only part where you have to really write things down. The first thing you’re going to want to do is to set a date. This will help with the rest of the planning later on and allow employees to mark their calendars early. A holiday party isn’t all that great if only three people show up.

Consider sending reminder emails as well--to employees and any clients that want to attend. Mass emails a month, a week and the day of is probably a good call.

And the most painful part--the budget. Decide how much you want to spend on this party and rank party elements (venue, food, entertainment) by importance. Then allocate your money based on the ranking. Be sure to set aside a little extra, for any mishaps along the way.

If you’re looking to avoid any mishaps (and hair pulling), consider budgeting in an event planning company such as Just for the Occasion to get everything right.

What Kind of Party is It?

ice skating at the chiller ice rink
You could even have an ice skating party, if you’re feeling ambitious! Image courtesy of Center City District

What kind of party are we looking at here? Is it an after-hours party, an at-work party, a themed event or an activity party? You decide! Go traditional with an in office party, light up childhood nostalgia by having your party at The Chiller Ice Rink or do something totally out there and go axe throwing at Kapow. (I personally suggest the axe throwing, really gives the idea of a holiday party a facelift)

Pro tip: Make sure your kind of party is inclusive for everyone and always allows for inviting plus ones!

Scout Out Venues

fancy room
Alright, where we hosting this shindig? Image courtesy of Boston Magazine

If you’re having a themed holiday party, your venue is sort of decided for you. If you’re going to go a more traditional route for your festivities, you’re going to have to think about where you’re going to host this party.

If you’re looking for something scenic, check out venues such as Columbus Athenaeum. With its central location, multiple rooms to choose from and gorgeous backdrop, it’ll definitely bring an aura of class to your corporate event.

And if you’re going for a more relaxed vibe, book somewhere like The Kitchen. It’s got two event spaces--The Kitchen for large, interactive dinners, and The Studio, for more intimate gatherings.

Pro tip: The size and the vibe of your venue are the two most important functional aspects to consider when planning your event.

Prepare to Dine, People

table of snacks including crackers, chips, salad, and fruit
Food is key to success in pretty much any venture. Image courtesy of Food Network

Food is the main motivation to go to anything (think back to when you were 17 and you’d go anywhere that involved pizza). And unless your venue is catering or you’ve got a loving Italian grandma at home, you’re going to have to figure out what kind of food to serve and where to get it from.

If full blown catering is what you’re looking for, try a service like Corporate Caterers, which has a rotating list of specials and a holiday menu! They also do appetizers, snacks and the beloved breakfast menu, if you’re having an early party (or, like me, you love breakfast for dinner).

If your party is more of a wine and floating appetizers event, try the (as seen on Food Network) Modern Southern Table for all your finger food needs.

There’s also the tried and true potluck social, but unless you’re hosting the party at the office, we don’t recommend it. Bringing a dish to work and then carting it to a party does not sound appetizing at all, plus cooking a dish (as someone who can’t cook) can be a little stressful. The party’s supposed to be relaxing, after all!

Pro tip: Make sure the menu caters to everyone, including vegetarians and gluten free peeps!

And Who Would We Be if We Didn’t Talk Drinks?

coworkers cheering with wine
While drinks don’t necessarily “make” the party, it’ll be nice to make a toast. Bonus points if you ever figure out how to open a champagne bottle with a knife. Or sword.

Again, if your venue is taking care of this, great! If not, you’ve got a few options.

Some caterers take care of it all, some, like PC Events Catering, specialize in beverage and bar catering. You’ll have to decide whether to host an open bar (recommended unless money needs allocated towards something else, or you did decide to go throw axes), or have drink tickets. You’ll also have to decide between having an array of drinks or just beer and wine.

If your numbers and setting are a little smaller, you could even get creative and have everyone make their own holiday themed cocktails. Make up some crazy crazy combinations and see if they’re good, or if they’re nutmeg monstrosities!

And Finally, Some Sick Entertainment

coworkers doing a conga line
I don’t know if this is exactly what you’re hoping will happen, but we love it. Image courtesy of Starz Entertainment

Depending on the type of party you have, entertainment may already be covered. Like if you all decide to go to one of those paint-a-pot places (don’t do that, unless everyone really wants to).

If you’re hosting your party at a venue, you’ll have to think about music. Think about the space that you’re in. Is it a fun, spacious place where people can dance if they want? Then hire someone like Columbus Pro DJs to raise the roof. If you’re having an elegant sit down dinner with your employees, consider a soft music in the background.

If all else fails, find your coolest employee and ask to borrow their Spotify playlist!

Pro tip: your employee that’s way into death metal is probably not the person to go to.

While traditional corporate parties can be elegant and appropriate, we hope you’ll take this list and get creative with it. Bring a fresh element to your holiday party with the type of event you host, the place you host it in or the food and drink menus! However you have it, a holiday party is a must for companies looking to build their community and build a really great team for the rest of the year.

If you’re looking to relocate all your new work friends to a new location, check out these HER commercial listings.