Holiday parties are a great opportunity for employers to engage with their employees in a relaxed atmosphere. While it is important for everyone to enjoy themselves in the lead up to the holidays, employers should try to strike a balance between having a good time and an atmosphere reminiscent of the kind of antics you would see on NBC’s The Office. With your company holiday party just around the corner, we thought it would be an opportune time to provide you with tips on how to make it a great time for everyone.

1.Managing Alcohol Use

Alcohol service invites the most risk for employers. While employers can decide not to serve alcohol, many employers will provide it simply because it is expected by many party-goers. In order to reduce alcohol-related risks, employers should consider limiting alcohol consumption by offering employees a limited number of drink tickets or having a cash bar rather than an open bar. Hosting the party at an off-site location may help with this as servers can be instructed not to serve alcohol to people who appear intoxicated. Be sure to have alternative transportation options advertised and readily available on the night of the event.

2. Offering Other Drink Options

Not all your employees will drink alcohol, so having other drink options is essential to creating an inclusive environment. Most parties will offer attendees water or soda as alternatives, but it is always impressive to attend an event where non-drinkers have a fancy mocktail as an option. Your non-drinking employees will be impressed and your drinking employees will appreciate having another option once they run out of drink tickets.

Remember, people choose not to drink for a wide variety of reasons, including for health and religious reasons, and it is never appropriate to ask someone why they are not drinking.

3. Curating an Invite List

Some employers will only extend the party invite to certain employees and leave out other essential members of the team (for instance, only inviting the sales team and not support staff). This is never a good idea as it creates unnecessary discord between different members of the team. Some employers reason that they do this in order to avoid having people attend the event out of obligation. This can easily be remedied by informing all employees that the holiday party is entirely optional, so they can send their regrets without fear but still feel included in the festivities.

4. Preventing Harassment and Violence

Employers should remind their employees about the company’s policy on harassment and violence in advance of the holiday party. While the party may take place outside the office and/or work hours, the employer will be responsible for any inappropriate behaviour that takes place at the party, just as they would if the behaviour took place in the office. Employers should be mindful of decorations or activities that may contribute to unwanted or uninvited behaviour or advances,  such as mistletoe or photobooths. Employers should also pay attention to employees with pre-existing workplace disputes as a change in environment and a little liquid courage is sometimes all that is necessary to set things off!  

Employers and managers should also try to set a good example by behaving professionally at the party in the hopes that employees will follow suit.

Final Thoughts

The office holiday party is a time to celebrate the end of the year joyously with the people you likely spend the most time with over the course of the year. While making the party safe and inclusive does take a little more effort, you’ll be better positioned to have fun at these events if you feel like your entire team can truly enjoy it.

SpringLaw would like to wish you very Happy Holidays and a wonderful New Year! Please enjoy the season responsibly.

If you require any legal counsel regarding organizing safe and inclusive workplace events, please get in touch!