Holidays at work can be a delicate subject. Diverse workforces mean that there are different ways to celebrate a variety of holidays. However, it’s possible to ensure that the season is festive and fun for everyone. Holiday work parties go one of two ways — something people (leaders and employees alike) have to do or want to do.
We’re in the peak season for companies throwing a holiday work party for their employees. Most parties happen before the New Year, but for many in the service industry, the season continues through the end of January.
How can your company pull off a warm and inviting experience for everyone? Here are some considerations for making your holiday work party an appreciated event that employees of all ages want to attend.
Holiday Work Party Basics: Engage, Don’t Entertain
Parties should be entertaining, but they’re not a show. Increasingly, what employees crave from employers at their holiday work party is engagement.
Traditional workplace parties were often characterized by stiff formalities, catered meals, and alcohol-fueled interactions. While these events could serve as opportunities for networking and team bonding, they often failed to resonate with millennials’ desire for authentic connections and meaningful experiences. It is estimated that there are 56 million millennials in the US workforce as of January 2023. This represents 35% of the total US labor force. Millennials are the largest generation in the workforce, followed by Generation X (35.5%) and Baby Boomers (19%).
Millennials are redefining workplace parties by prioritizing experiences over extravagance. They are seeking out events that foster genuine connections and align with their values. Here are some key trends driving this shift:
Emphasis on Experiences: Millennials crave experiences that are memorable, engaging, and offer a sense of personal growth. They are less interested in traditional party setups and prefer interactive activities, workshops, or outings that provide opportunities for learning, connection, and fun.
Wellness and Mindfulness: Millennials are increasingly prioritizing their health and well-being. They seek out workplace parties that incorporate wellness elements, such as yoga sessions, healthy food options, or stress-reducing activities. (Although a post-event meetup at a brewery or wine bar offers nice balance.)
Values-Aligned Events: Millennials are more likely to attend and appreciate workplace parties that align with their personal values and social causes. Companies are encouraged to embrace sustainable practices, support charitable initiatives, or host events that promote diversity and inclusion.
Technology Integration: Millennials are tech-savvy and appreciate the use of technology to enhance party experiences. Try incorporating interactive apps, social media engagement, and digital photo booths.
Examples of Creative Workplace Parties
Escape Rooms: These immersive puzzles focus on teamwork, communication, and problem-solving skills.
Volunteer Events: Consider a team-building activity around a community service project, allowing employees to give back while bonding over shared purpose.
Wellness Retreats: These getaways combine relaxation, mindfulness practices, and healthy activities.
Interactive Workshops: What would be fun and also educational? Topics like improv, cooking, or creative writing, provide opportunities for personal and professional development in a unique setting.
By embracing these trends and catering to the evolving preferences of younger generations, everyone wins! It’s possible to host workplace parties that are not only enjoyable but also align with values and enhance employee engagement, productivity, and overall well-being.
A holiday work party with catered plates and pricy gifts will likely impress employees for a couple of hours. But only sincere gratitude and genuine excitement from management will make it the kind of party employees still talk about in June.
Workplace holiday parties are meant to achieve certain objectives: strengthen social bonds between employees, promote a feeling of company unity, and celebrate and appreciate everyone’s hard work in the past year.
But a common danger is becoming so fixated on these objectives that the party itself is a dud — forced, awkward and no fun. And if management is skipping your company holiday work party altogether — or worse, making an appearance out of obligation — it’s time to reevaluate whether the party you’re throwing matches the company culture you’re building.
For holiday work party inspiration, check out this oldie-but-goodie list from Inc.: “Office Work Parties Your Employees Want to Attend.” These real-life examples run the gamut from casual to fancy, yet they all have something in common: they were memorable.
Share Gifts (with a twist)
If your company is sharing gifts at your holiday work party, do it with a little pomp and circumstance! A gift shared without appreciation is much the same as an unengaging party — it really can do more harm than good. We’re fans of providing each guest a gift basket, that can include a personalized thank you note, a gift certificate, a bag of coffee, locally sourced treats, and something that reflects the ethos of the organization.
Jake Kilroy, an Entrepreneur writer who wrote about his favorite holiday work party, recalls that his company’s gift exchange was accompanied by coworkers reading each other’s favorite holiday memories — a party game facilitated by the company owners, who also greeted each employee at the door with a heartfelt welcome.
For more tips on workplace gift-giving, download our FREE eBook, “The Ultimate Guide to Employee Gift-Giving.” Learn from HR experts what really works.
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