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It's supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year. Regardless of your employees' varied religious backgrounds and differing beliefs, everyone can agree the holiday season is a good time for reflection, self-assessment and (hopefully) celebration. Everyone has worked hard and many employers use the end of the calendar year as a time to recognize that hard work and dedication via bonuses, raises and oftentimes a holiday office party.

But not all holiday work parties are created equal.

Obviously, there are a lot of factors that determine what kind of holiday party you should throw for your employees. The first one that jumps to mind is the size of your company. It's much easier to throw a holiday bash for 15-20 people than several thousand employees. And, of course, the company's financial situation has to be taken into account. If you're on the verge of bankruptcy and barely hanging on as it is, breaking the bank for a holiday office party isn't the smartest idea. But assuming you're a small to mid-sized business and you've got the cash to spare, there are definite Dos and Don'ts when it comes to holiday parties.

DO know the make-up of your employees and take that into account when picking a venue. If your workforce is made up primarily of young professionals, don't be afraid to book something at a nightclub or popular restaurant. Vice-versa if you have older employees who would rather be treated to a nice dinner as opposed to an evening of dancing and drinking. Know your audience.

DON'T book the venue during mid-week just to save money. Parties are supposed to be fun. Fridays after work are fun, but Tuesdays are not. There's nothing fun about going to a work function and paying for a babysitter to stay out until 11 p.m. on a Tuesday, only to be at work at 9 a.m. the next morning. Sure it's cheaper mid-week, but unless you want morale sinking to an all-time low just as Santa is readying his sleigh, spring for a Friday night. It won't go unnoticed or unappreciated.

DO make sure to allow your employees "Plus 1" privileges. Workers are around each other all day, and a holiday party might be the only time they can meet each other's significant others. Putting faces with names and stories allows employees to bond and become more engaged.

DON'T make your employees pay to bring a guest. This is supposed to be a party that celebrates the hard work of your employees and thanks them. Most people will be emptying their wallets to buy presents for friends and family members, so forcing them to shell out even more money for a party that's supposed to be about giving back to them is truly bad form. If you commit to the party, then really commit to it. But don't ask the workers to subsidize their own suare.

DO have the restaurant provide some alcohol. Open bar is appreciated, but not necessary. If you're having the party on the premises, check with your legal department or a lawyer about your responsibilities if alcohol is provided. And while the booze shouldn't be the focal point of the night, think about how many memorable holiday party stories you have that don't involve alcohol.

DON'T let people employees drive home while intoxicated. While you can only do so much to make sure everyone has a designated driver, there are other options. If it's a small company gathering perhaps you can spring for taxis for those who can't drive themselves home. Or try partnering exclusively with a local cab company and negotiate so that the company is subsidizing half of each fare. Either way your employees will definitely appreciate you going the extra mile.

DO make sure you have some music and atmosphere available. Dinner is nice, but it's also boring. But if you have some music and a few drinks, people will eventually begin to loosen up. After all, this is about having fun and showing appreciation.

DON'T skimp on the food. Nothing sours the mood like a subpar meal. Again, go big or go home.

DO take lots of pictures and either create a collage you hang up at work, or use an online picture service to post all the photos and give everyone the link to it. A great party can raise spirits and photographic reminders of the good time can go a long way.

DON'T get caught in a picture mid-funky chicken. You might never live it down.


Basically if you're not prepared to do a holiday party the right way, don't bother. Because the only thing worse than not having a party is for your employees to attend one by shelling out their own money for guests, eating mediocre food, sitting there bored wondering why they even bothered to RSVP "yes" in the first place. Sure there are additional costs with a really great holiday party that you won't immediately recover. But happy employees are more engaged, engaged employees are more productive and productive employees keep filling the company coffers.

Happy Holidays.

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