How To Organise An Inclusive Office Party – 7 Tips

Party balloons

If you could benefit from our help after last year’s disastrous office party, get in touch to see how we can help.

Love it or loathe it, office party season is just around the corner and the pressure to organise an inclusive office party is real. After all, it’s an event that many employees look forward to, as they can relax, celebrate the year’s successes and enjoy spending time with colleagues informally. But for other staff, it’s an event that can trigger feelings of stress, anxiety and nervousness.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement of what to plan for the office party that the potential issues that the event could cause are overlooked. As a manager, it’s important to ensure that these kinds of events are enjoyable and inclusive for all of the team.

Being aware of the potential pitfalls will help, so here are 7 tips to ensure that this year you organise an inclusive office party that is stress-free and enjoyable for everyone.

1. Choose the right name, give the right impression

The ‘Christmas Party’ is typically the one time in the year when everyone from the company gets together socially. This generally happens at the end of the year – hence the name – but by and large the party will have very little to do with a religious or spiritual activity.

Some organisations have started to call these events ‘Festive’ or ‘Holiday’ parties to make them inclusive for all religions. After all, they’re essentially about all employees coming together to interact, be social and celebrate your achievements for the past year, rather than around any one theme.

2. Lead by example

As managers, we often forget that others are looking to us to see how we respond and behave in these social situations. Of course, you’re not there to police all the employees, but it is your responsibility to ensure that everyone is (and feels) included, that the environment is relaxed and that everyone can enjoy the event. Be sure to look out for those employees who are not necessarily part of certain ‘in-groups’, and who may be on the sidelines of the social interactions taking place.

If you’d benefit from leadership coaching, our Inclusive Leadership training will help to develop your managerial skills.

3. Enjoy responsibly

A good manager should not let the party become an alcohol-fuelled, career-threatening event. No one wants to see their colleague stood up on a table holding a drink in one hand whilst attempting karaoke (think: office party scene in the film, Bridget Jones’ Diary). It’s an event that you want your colleagues to speak about the day after rather than hide with embarrassment. Your employees should not feel pressured into drinking too much by you or anyone else in their team. Research has identified a rise in teetotalism, where almost half of Brits are avoiding alcohol, especially among younger groups. Many of your team may be a part of this statistic – so this should be respected.

The party is a perfect opportunity for those who have worked hard together all year to let off some steam and get to know each other better. But from a health and wellbeing perspective, it’s important that you set the tone for behaviour and what is acceptable. This is a skill that is developed in our Wellbeing Practices courses; a crucial ability for managers to create a positive workplace culture around mental health and wellbeing.

Office parties become infamous for a reason: this is a time when situations can get out of control.  That’s why many organisations are holding end-of-year parties not solely centred around alcohol and are instead choosing other ways to celebrate, for instance, by throwing dinner parties or sending their team on an escape room challenge.

4. Schedule an event that’s fair for all

Holding your event in the evening – or late into the night – often means it will exclude those with child-care, caring or other out-of-work responsibilities.

For some, the event will cause anxiety around how they’re perceived by others. “Will I be talked about if I’m not there?” is a very likely source of concern. Many employees will stress about missing the office party – not wanting to be dismissed as “not a team player” by their colleagues. Even more extreme thinking, like “Will I lose my job if I don’t attend?”, is not uncommon either.

Holding an event at a lunchtime or in working hours gives everybody in the team the opportunity to attend and actively participate. The big night doesn’t always have to be a big night, after all.

5. Consider the costs

Financial wellbeing is one of the most likely causes of stress for your employees. Throwing an expensive event paid for by the company will not go down well during times when there are, for instance, head-count or salary freezes in place. For others, attending your big event may bring increased pressure to buy new outfits, out-of-town transport, babysitters or overnight accommodation, so do ensure the budget of the event is fair and reasonable for all.

You might want to think about running a smaller-sized event. Or perhaps take the opportunity to give your employees a thank you gift/bonus to show appreciation for all their hard work. Extravagance does not necessarily equate to throwing the best staff party.

6. Think about other events you could also celebrate

Christmas is usually a time when all our diaries are taken up with events, parties and celebrations. But, as I mentioned earlier, you don’t have to be religious to get in the festive mood. There are other religious holidays – such as Bodhi Day for Buddhists, Hanukkah for Jewish people and Eid for Muslims – which often go entirely unmentioned in the workplace. Paying tribute to other calendar dates, such as Black History Month or LGBT Pride Month, will make for a more diverse and inclusive workplace culture that isn’t solely based around one form of socialising (such as down in the local pub).

If your organisation only has one “big night” per year, it can be built up into a “big” thing. Smaller, more frequent social events allow for your employees to bond without the pressure of the “big night”. Volunteering days, for example, is a great way for colleagues to bond outside of the office. Consider celebrating some of these events to make all of your employees feel celebrated and valued. Our Diversity and Inclusion training is an ideal opportunity for your organisation to listen and converse with our diversity-specialist consultants who are keen to help improve your company’s D&I.

7. Don’t forget to enjoy yourself

Nothing is worse than attending the office party and feeling unable to let your guard down due to your manager’s presence. They can make staff feel that they must be in “work mode” and on their best behaviour. By letting your guard down and socialising as a colleague, rather than as a manager, your team will feel more relaxed and likely enjoy the event much more. And besides, managers are humans and should also be part of the fun too!

These are just some small ways that can have a big impact in making sure that your festive party is a relaxed, inclusive and successful event for all.

Happy Holidays!

Related Reading

How to build diverse and inclusive cultures
Leading by inclusive example 
How to be an inclusive leader in 10 steps

Find out how EW Group can support you

Get in touch