Trying to come up with Christmas office party ideas your teammates won’t hate can be very challenging. Because let’s face it, most of us hate going to the Christmas office party, right?
The thought of getting together with your whole team (and maybe your entire department) and socialising with them as though you’re ‘one big family’ is a real fear for some.
I remember dreading the two Christmas parties I had to go, one with my team, another with my department. These people were my colleagues, not my close friends. What could we possibly talk about other than work?
Most people during the festive season are looking forward to the time off that comes with the holidays, not partying with their co-workers. The idea of sitting together, in paper hats and singing Christmas carols, can make the blood drain from your face!
Also, unlike regular office parties, a Christmas party requires everyone to be jolly together for several hours at a time.
So how to overcome these dilemmas? By creating Christmas office party ideas that people can’t wait to attend. If that sounds impossible, you’ve come to the right place.
A few key planning tips you need to know
For any event taking place at work, you need to think more carefully about how you handle your team so everyone feels comfortable. You don’t want to force anyone to attend your party, you want them to feel comfortable with making the choice to go.
A Christmas party maybe a company tradition, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a traditional party. Your party will already be on its way to success if you can avoid doing these 5 things:
Best way to eat together
Avoid the usual sit-down-and-eat office party by getting people moving about and giving them the chance to mingle. Hosting the dinner as a buffet can help.
If your manager insists on a sit-down-dinner party, try and organise it so everyone is sitting around a round circle facing each other. Avoid using long rectangular tables at all costs; people tend to break off into cliques using this arrangement, which can leave individuals stranded.
If you’re eating at a restaurant, don’t choose tables in the corners of the dining room with walls behind the seating areas. Try and book tables in the centre of the room, this gives teammates the chance to stretch their leg and walk around. Having walls behind your group can often make people feel trapped, especially if the people they’re sat next to they’re not comfortable with.
Try not to hold your party in the same building you work in. Splash out on your budget by going off-site and even then don’t choose a venue everyone knows. You don’t want anyone trekking back to their desk for some timeout.
Don’t scrimp on your party venue either – spend a little extra to give everyone a good time. People are already dreading the Christmas party, you don’t them to feel worse by holding your party at a local cheap bar. You should be thinking of Christmas office party ideas as ways to show appreciation for your team, and the venue you choose should be making a statement about that.
Ground rules for teammates
This is a serious big no: don’t force people to take part in games or wear Santa/paper hats. Let them choose when they’re ready. Nothing is worse than peer pressure and forcing those not comfortable with joining in to take part. You’re all adults here, this is not school.
So what’s the best way to seat your team? Should you do it according to their teams/department? I’d say no on this, I’d say it’s better for people to sit with friends they know or have some bond with. So when you’re planning the seating arrangement, think hard and carefully about how your team is connected socially.
If you find yourself with an odd man out who doesn’t know anyone, have them sit next to you or the group you’re with. Sometimes, having someone else do the introductions can help ease in shy teammates.
Ban all office politics or gossip, no exceptions. That’s why you need to party outside the office, you need that separation. You also need to make sure everyone knows. Of course, once everyone gets into the party mood and relaxes, you can’t stop them from gossiping. But it’s better to set the foundation of the party before it begins.
You definitely don’t want to get into a position of teammates feeling singled out, old wounds from the office being played out at the dinner, or any fights breaking out.
Make sure everyone knows whatever is shared at the event stays at the event. This being a work event (with alcohol involved), you want everyone to feel safe and know that any antics won’t go on their professional record.
Of course, everyone should know in advance that they must behave in a certain way since all Christmas office parties are professional work events, e.g. no lewdness, no drunkedness. But you don’t want anyone to feel terrified of making a mistake at the party and wondering if they’ll have a job the next week.
The best way of thinking about Christmas office party ideas
When you’re planning your party, try not to think of it as a party. Instead, create an event out of your Christmas party. You want to make it so memorable and a highlight of the year for everyone, that it leaves people with smiles and good memories.
Most people will expect the sit-down office party and so will automatically assume yours will be just as boring.
That’s why you need to make your party an event. Your company must break the budget so everyone is ensured a good time. There must be money spent, your teammates deserve it after working hard all year. And I say that as someone who once went to a Christmas office party hosted in a local pub which we had to share with other patrons. We also had to pay for our own food and drink individually. Yes, it was a terrible time.
Here are some suggestions for Christmas office party ideas
Center your party around a group activity
Give your team the chance to let their hair down, by treating them to something that lets them do that. For example, you could take everyone bowling, an afternoon of paintballing or to a comedy club. If your budget can stretch, why not treat everyone to a night at the theatre with a dinner before or afterwards?
You could also hire out a movie theater for a Christmas movie marathon your teams chooses the films for. Don’t try doing this idea in your office, by turning it into an movie theater, that’s just cheap.
Theme your office Christmas party ideas
Having a theme gives everyone the chance to dress up and show off their outfits. Although people at first might be reluctant to dress up, you can incentivise the idea by adding prizes. Let everyone know they don’t have to spend big money on an outfit, they can be as inventive as they like.
Periods like the 60s, 70s and 80s are the easiest themes. To help people along, you can email everyone a list of ideas to inspire them, along with shops where they can rent fancy dress. That way, you take the pressure off people.
Add silly activities to the mix
It’s important you add as much playfulness to your Christmas office party ideas as much possible. We’re talking card conversation starter games and leaving disposable cameras lying around.
Are you ready for a memorable experience this year?
Even if your company budget won’t stretch to a lavish event, you can still change up your Christmas office party ideas by playing against convention. For example:
Time of day: Most people expect an evening after-work party, so choosing an earlier time is an alternative, e.g. lunch or a long breakfast. For teammates who can’t commit to an evening event, this can be a wonderful opportunity for them to attend. Changing the time the party is can reduce resistance from your team about having a party
Time of week to party: If you prefer an evening party, then try and host it later in the week. That way, it’s a nice lead up to the weekend.
The venue: Venues fill up quickly this time of year, so book fast, at least a month in advance. Try and think about alternative venues to the norm, e.g. the local farm canteen; a cinema night; a bowling alley with a restaurant.
The size: Size of the event is up to you. Larger parties equal more planning and supervision, while smaller affairs are less stressful and more intimate.
Dress code: Unless your boss says otherwise smart casual is the way to dress. Unless you’re all in fancy dress, that is.
Trying to think up Christmas office party ideas that keep your teammates happy is a tough business. People already dread attending office parties, so the annual event is going to throw up more resistance. But once you know how to organise an effective Christmas party, you’ll have everyone dying to attend. I hope our ideas give you the head start you need.