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How to Throw an Office Holiday Party Your Employees Won’t Dread or Skip

Following these simple rules ensures good vibes for all.
Hannah Smothers
Brooklyn, US
December 11, 2019, 8:45pm
Rules to make the next office holiday party actually good
NBC via Netflix

Office holiday parties are, scientifically speaking, a treat. Companies aren’t “required” to have them, by any means……… but they should. It’s good to show appreciation to the people who show up every day, in exchange for a paycheck. Parties are fun!!!!! Unfortunately, they’re also a very easy thing for a company to screw up, and a bad office party is truly terrible. I would rather time travel back to high school and spend three hours dancing alone by the bleachers at prom, than suffer through 15 stuffy, awkward minutes in a “fun” corporate setting. Here, we’ve compiled a few proposed rules to ensure nothing but good vibes at any office holiday party. Companies and corporations, please, take notes.

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  • The correct day for an office party is Thursday. Weekends are personal time; don’t take up your staff’s Friday or—god forbid— Saturday evening in December with a quasi-mandatory social event, or make them endure their hangover while they are off the clock. That said, hosting the party on any other night but Thursday (Thirsty Thursday!) would be cruel. A party earlier in the week makes no sense—what, we’re all hungover on Wednesday or Thursday and are then expected to show up and act normal?? later in the week?? Also, really good parties tend to last a long time. The last thing on everyone’s mind, as they re-fill their cup with spiked punch for the fourth time or start thinking about an after-party, should be how bad they’ll feel at their desk the next day.
  • The party should start between the hours of 5 and 7. Any earlier, and everyone is stressed about finishing all their work. Any later, and you’re just keeping people at the office late. Booooo!
  • The dress code should be somewhat fancy, and stated on the invitation. I don’t know “the deal” with your company’s regular dress code, but VICE famously does not have one. (“We have no dress code,” they tell you here, right after you get your offer letter.) No matter what the case is where you work, the office holiday party should be a chance to wear something nice, something your coworkers will be dazzled by, if only for a few hours. The invite should clearly state the dress code (“fun party clothes,” “like what you’d wear to a cool wedding,” etc.).
  • Also, it should be Normal and Encouraged to bring a change of clothes to work for the party. Somehow all office thermostats are set to “Freezing, with a Touch of Pit-Sweat.” It would be uncouth and uncomfortable to show up to the holiday party in a wrinkled, sweat-stained outfit you just sat in all day. To avoid this problem, the party invite should specify that bringing a change of clothes is totally cool. A simple line added to the dress code accomplishes this: “Feel free to bring a change of clothes!” See? Easy. Then everyone can do a “big reveal,” even. What a treat!
  • By 4:30 p.m., the office bathrooms should be fully transformed into staging areas. Because everyone, in abiding by these rules, has brought along a change of clothes, many people have probably also brought in hair tools and makeup bags, so as to refresh after a day of staring at a screen. It should be completely appropriate for the bathrooms to become proto-dressing rooms/locker rooms. Put some music on, sit on the sink counter—do whatever you’d do at home. This “pregame” situation is another opportunity to bond with your colleagues, which is the entire point of the party ritual.
  • Workplace Elders (i.e., anyone who’s been to a holiday party at this company before), should help out the newbies. The people most at-risk of having a stressful, bummer time at the holiday party are the new hires, who don’t know many people yet, and who don’t want to accidentally get too drunk around the wrong person. Ahead of the party, people who have been at the company a while should prepare new hires about what they can expect: Is there an after-party? Does everyone abide by the three-drink limit? Will there be substantial food? etc. Once at the party, Elders would also do well to chaperone new hires around and let them know who’s cool and who isn’t.
  • If dates aren’t allowed, there should absolutely be an open bar. I’m kinda into the “no plus ones” policy that’s standard at many office holiday parties; this is the closest we get, as adults, to the vibe of school lock-ins, which were good. Being stuck in a place with people you didn’t choose can be good for greasing the social wheels. You know what’s also good for greasing the social wheels? An open bar. Forcing your employees to pay for anything at the company party is evil, but is somewhat understandable if people who aren’t employees will be crashing. “No wallets should be present at the company party” is a good rule of thumb to follow.
  • And if there is an open bar, there should absolutely be real food. I’m not talking about polite party snacks, like freakin’ canapés or hors d’oeuvres or what have you. If there’s an open bar, there should be carbs and proteins to keep people from getting to sloppy and to mitigate the next day’s hangover. (Also, because the party is starting between 5 and 7 p.m., everyone will be hungry.) Perhaps a tasteful buffet (people love to mill about a buffet), or several boxes of pizza. Whatever it is, it must constitute a reasonable meal. And it must, obviously, be free.
  • Karaoke is banned. No karaoke.
  • Any speeches should be really short, and happen at the beginning. It’s acceptable for, at most, one (1) company leader to say a few kind words about the workers; anything beyond that is excessive. Employees are required to listen to their bosses talk every day of the year. Let the holiday party be the one moment of respite, please.
  • Talking about your shared hangovers the next day should be encouraged. Usually, going into work hungover is a private, quiet endeavor. Ha ha, you might think to yourself throughout the day, I’m so hungover! But after the office holiday party, many people will likely be hungover. This is a nice time to bond; you and Mark from the legal department can share a little laugh at the water cooler, “Yikes, right? Heh heh,” you can say, out loud, to your colleague. “Yeah buddy I’m hurtin’,” he might say back. Voilà! You have another work friend.
  • And if people are required to be in the office the next morning, there should be free bagels and coffee for everyone. I’m not here to dictate each person’s individual hangover routine, but many of them involve eating a greasy or carby thing, and washing it down with coffee. The bosses can easily provide these items, and—if they want people to come in and “work” at a reasonable hour the morning after the holiday party— should the morning after the holiday party. Plus it’s fun and camaraderie-building to chat about the previous night’s events as you’re loading up at the bagel buffet.

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