Ten Tips for Memorable Office Holiday Celebrations

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Ending a year of layoffs, cutbacks, and no annual raises or bonuses, this season many office managers and business owners are looking for new ways to fittingly acknowledge and thank employees for their service throughout the year. Recognizing that it is difficult to justify party expenses during these tough economic times, the office party planner needs to become creative.

Dawn Bryan, author of the best-selling The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving and founder of Qualipedia, offers the following 10 tips to planning a holiday office celebration that will make employees feel appreciated while also addresses their budgetary concerns.

1. Have your party AFTER the holidays
This works especially well for the employees of those businesses and organizations which are particularly stressed and overworked during the season, but will be a welcome treat  for all in dreary, non-scheduled January. It also works for the budget-minded, as prices are reduced and reservations and venues are no longer in demand.

2. Have your party during the day
An event away from the office during the working day not only gives the staff some time off, but opens some interesting possibilities, such as a brunch, breakfast or lunch –maybe with company officers serving behind the buffet table while thanking their employees.

3. Have your party at a new or unusual venue
The boss’s home, the staff’s favorite pizzeria, a park, a local museum, or a sports venue.

4. Customize for your culture
Will most want to bring their spouses/significant others, their young children, their teenagers, their pets?  Do you need to include foods, music and activities which will appeal to the diversity or the hierarchical complexities of your organization?

5. Join forces with another company
On your floor, in your building, or one you work closely with throughout the year. This approach will make for more interesting and lively conversation, a smaller budget, and maybe even result in more business.

6. Plan something different
A group of young people might enjoy a trip to the bowling alley with some team competition and prizes built in; Include young children with a block of circus tickets and coupons for cotton candy; Take staff to a dinner theatre or musical; Invest in tickets to a sporting event and plan a tail-gating party; Participate in a day of winter sports; Plan an amusement park or carnival outing; Investigate the local aquarium and its dining facilities.

7. Involve employees in the planning process
Ask a social member of the staff to help with the planning, create a planning committee with representatives from each department, or present several ideas to the staff for them to choose from.

8.Facilitate learning about each other on a social level
Select games, gift exchanges, lotteries, competitions which engage all guests allowing them to learn about and enjoy each other on a social level.  The customary gift exchange could in 2011 become an exchange of promised tasks to be performed for the recipient–making copies, proofing a contract, delivering lunch, organizing files, and providing transportation.

9.Take the nontraditional approach — no party or event
Give each employee an extra paid day off in the coming year; a gift card and a half day to go shopping before Christmas; “Good For” cards related to their needs.  Accompanying any of these with a personal thank you note usually means more than the actual gift. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.

10. This is the year to give back
Maybe your staff would receive more satisfaction from helping others. They may wish to vote on their favorite charity or charities. Then sponsor and run an event at the local children’s hospital, dressing as elves and Santa; Start a coat drive in your neighborhood or among your customers for the needy in your community; or provide all of the volunteers for serving a holiday meal at a nearby soup kitchen, church or synagogue.

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