Happy Holidays! It is that time of the year again, when the office holiday parties are held, and merriment abounds. Or maybe it is when HR has the dreadful task of dealing with employee shenanigans. It might depend on how much alcohol you serve at your office holiday party or whether you have a giant ice luge that you pour shots down.
I mean, obviously HR is the least favorite department (E.g. Toby from the Office-he’s the WORST),but in the event you want to be nice (not naughty) to your HR team- let’s talk about some things to consider when planning your office holiday party.
Set Some Ground Rules
Make sure employees know that your employee handbook rules are still in effect. Prohibit any off-color jokes and especially any sexual banter. I’d avoid having mistletoe as a part of any of your decorations. There is always someone that will make a joke or comment about “being under the mistletoe.”
Unless the company is a religious employer (like a church or religious school) you should not have religious themed holiday decorations. You should also be hyper aware of ensuring you are not acting against anyone’s religious beliefs. Just look at this company that lost a lawsuit because it forced an employee to wear a Santa hat and apron while working at the furniture store.The company fired the employee after she said that her religion prohibited her from wearing the Santa hat and apron.
Finally, management and HR should know their role at the office holiday party. They are still in charge and need to monitor the party and quickly handle any situations that may arise especially those related to alcohol and sexual harassment.
Attendance Should Be Voluntary
Do not require employees to attend your party or you will be required to pay them.
Invite Spouses and Significant Others
I may be in the minority here, but I think you should allow your employees to bring their spouse or a significant other to the office holiday party (if it is not held during working hours). Work is a major part of people’s lives that many spouses never see. By allowing spouses to come you enable them to meet their significant other’s coworkers and help fill in the question marks about their 8-5 workplace environment. Not only that, you show your employees that you value who they are and who they value outside of the workplace, which increases workplace satisfaction and ultimately employee retention.
And let’s be honest, if someone is coming after working hours or on a weekend, then they probably feel that they have an obligation to come even if it is not mandatory. What that ultimately means is that the employee has to make the decision to spend even more time away from their significant others, which most people do not want to do .
Make Special Arrangements if Alcohol Will be Available
Your staff is probably not trained to serve alcohol and recognize the signs of impairment. No company wants that kind of liability, so the best thing that to do is get a professional to serve the alcohol. Also, HR should set some drink limits. Do not have an open bar. That is a great way to get into a lot of trouble.
Do not allow employees to take shots. The company should only provide beer and wine. Some companies even provide rides to employees to reduce the risk of drunk driving and the legal liability that comes with it.The company should also limit the hours that the bar is open and the length of the party. A good party is probably 3-4 hours. That is enough time for people to mingle and get home at a decent time while minimizing the risk of someone drinking too much.
Also, the company needs to provide some food. Food reduces the risk of someone getting drunk, which again leads to a host of problems.
Holiday Parties are Great for Bonding and Morale
A well-done office holiday party makes employees feel appreciated.It shows them that the company cares. It allows them to relax and interact with each other outside of work. It is a great way to have different parts of the company speak with each other and not just about work.
To help with bonding, many companies have games, or some activities for the employees to do. A game or some activity is a great icebreaker and way to encourage people to interact with those that they may not meet on a daily basis, but some people hate them, so use them sparingly.
After the Party
Investigate any complaints quickly. If any employees report that something inappropriate occurred, then HR needs to act fast to handle the problem just like for any other investigation.
Throw an amazing party that allows your employees to feel valued, but don’t do it at the expense of your HR team. By following the steps above, you can have a great party and reduce your risk of employee related problems. Wishing you all a very happy holiday season!
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, then you should speak with a lawyer about your specific issues. Every legal issue is unique. A lawyer can help you with your situation. Reading the blog, contacting me through the site, emailing me or commenting on a post does not create an attorney-client relationship between any reader and me.
The information provided is my own and does not reflect the opinion of my firm or anyone else.