How to Keep the Holiday Work Party Safe & Happy

‘Tis the season for holiday work parties. With many people celebrating during the month of December - Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and others - most workplaces also celebrate with a party of their own. These parties are often a fun time, a chance to chat with co-workers about non-work related subjects, and a sometimes-rare opportunity to hang out with people you see every day, outside of the workplace.

While these events are ideally all fun and happy, issues do arise, either amongst co-workers or even with partners of workers. And with many holiday work parties involving alcohol, there can be more chances for already-existing circumstances to escalate.

Whether the party happens in the workplace or off-site, there are some things you should be doing to keep the holiday work party safe and happy and free of incidents. Thankfully, with enough planning and safety protocols, the holiday work party can be a happy, fun and incident-free time.

image of co-workers mingling at a party

10 Tips for Keeping the Holiday Work Party Safe and Happy

  1. Set Expectations Ahead of Time. Make sure to set any expectations and guidelines ahead of time. Send an email or letter to remind all employees about policies, such as harassment or drinking policies or even dress codes. If there will be alcohol at the party, include information about alternative transportation and safety measures, ensuring everyone knows that drinking and driving will not be tolerated. Set up a cab system, with the workplace covering the tab, if necessary.
  2. Plan Ahead for Safety. Set up safety measures ahead of time, including security if need be, as well as someone whose job it is to monitor the party. This person can particularly look out for drinking, if alcohol is being served. You don’t want things getting out of control and you definitely don’t want anyone driving after they have been drinking. Having a designated responsible person to deal with any issues will make sure everyone feels more comfortable and will help prevent any drinking-related incidents.
  3. Let Everyone Know It’s Optional. Although most people will enjoy coming to a holiday work party, it’s not for everyone. To keep the pressure off and ensure everyone is comfortable, make the party optional, letting employees know it is completely fine if they’d prefer to not attend.
  4. Keep it Professional. While it’s totally fine to be friends with your co-workers or employees, keep the party professional. For instance, no drinking games or mistletoe to kiss under. 
  5. Put Restrictions on Alcohol. If you’re serving alcohol at the party, set up some restrictions, like giving each employee a certain number of drink vouchers as well as wristbands to any employees over the drinking age. Make sure there are enough delicious non-alcoholic alternatives.
  6. Hands to Yourself. While work parties are a time when people let loose because they feel more comfortable, it’s not a time to do whatever you please. Respect is key and inappropriate touching or language is never okay. Any non-professional must be consensual.
  7. Make Safety #1. Your employees’ safety should always be the number one priority. If partners are invited to the party, this is a good time to be on the lookout for any warning signs of domestic abuse. Check out this detailed post on how to remain vigilant. And although alcohol itself doesn’t cause violence or abuse, it can escalate situations quickly and can make already abusive persons more volatile. Ensure things aren’t getting out of hand amongst fellow employees or even partners of employees.
  8. Make it Inclusive. Not everyone celebrates Christmas, so keep it non-denominational so that no one feels excluded. You can even find out what each person celebrates and make it a multicultural celebration of all the different events, including a delicious potluck.
  9. Deal with Situations Right Away. If you notice a co-worker or employee who seems uncomfortable or upset, be discreet if necessary but definitely address the situation. Maybe they’re being bothered by a fellow co-worker or perhaps their partner is there and you notice signs of abuse. There might even be a worker getting out of control with drinking. Address the issue immediately and make sure you deal with it appropriately. Leaving it will only make things worse.
  10. Keep It Fun. Plan simple games or other fun activities to keep the party fun and active. You want everyone to feel included and you don’t want the party to become a drinking event. Simple game ideas include: a cookie taste-off, fun present exchange games, name that carol, pin the nose on Rudolph, holiday-themed Pictionary or charades, and a Santa if kids and families are invited.

Above all, the holiday work party should be a fun and relaxing time for everyone. When you put guidelines and safety measures into place ahead of time, it will make the event more comfortable for everyone and take the stress off the employers.

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