Celebrating Safely: Tips for Planning Your Holiday Parties

The winter holidays are coming — displays are already up in most stores, and Thanksgiving is only a couple weeks away. Parties and celebrations for you and your staff are coming soon. Some of you already have party plans in place — it’s not to soon to start thinking about it. Throwing a company celebration is a fantastic idea — it can build team loyalty, reward employees and trade partners for a busy and profitable year, and let everyone have fun and be merry.

If you’re not careful, though, there can be pitfalls and even outright minefields to navigate while creating a festive time for everyone.

Here’s how to find your way through.

It’s an invitation, not an obligation

If you require your employees to attend the holiday party, you’ve got to pay them, according to most employment laws. If you’ve scheduled a holiday lunch on a work day, no problem, they’re on the clock anyway. But evening or weekend parties can be a whole other thing. If nonexempt employees must attend a work function after working 40 hours that week, you’ll need to pay them overtime.

So make it optional. Taking away the obligation will make the event a lot more fun, because it leaves the choice up to them. After all, it’s a party!

Keep an eye on the bar

Companies are liable for the acts of patrons/employees who drink and later injure others. Yes, you’d be held responsible — so avoid this at all costs. Controlling alcohol consumption is the key here.

  • Hire real bartenders and experienced servers — they know how to spot, and stop serving, inebriated guests. Have a policy in place they can follow.
  • Issue two drink tickets per person (keep an eye out for potential troublemakers getting tickets from non-imbibing co-workers, too).
  • Stop serving alcohol a few hours before the end of the party.
  • Don’t skimp on food — have it available throughout the night. It will help temper the effects of the alcohol once people start drinking.
  • Consider offering a gift to those willing to be sober designated drivers for their co-workers.
  • Arrange ride services or carpooling for any employees who plan to drink. Use cabs, limos, Uber, Lyft or even a bus to get employees home safely.

Forget the mistletoe

The #metoo movement has brought increased awareness to workplace behavior. While you may be off-site and off the clock, you’re still hosting an employee event. Limiting alcohol is already a help, but inviting spouses and partners extends your generosity and can also can be built-in curbs on reckless behavior. And no mistletoe. Seriously.

Keep your head about you

Yes, it’s a party and you deserve to have fun too. But moderating your own celebrating will allow you to keep an eye out for situations that may be developing and head them off. It will also model responsible behavior for your staff — setting a great example is the best way to set the tone for a wonderful time for all.

Any Other Ways to Celebrate the Holidays?

Are you planning anything unique for your team this year? Anything you would like to share with us? What are some ways you have celebrated successfully in the past? Any additional pitfalls to look out for? Use the comments section below to share your thoughts.

Written by RLO Training