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How-to Throw a Holiday Office Party on a Budget

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How-to Throw a Holiday Office Party on a Budget

Abbie Riley
By Abbie Riley
November 28, 2016

Some people will tell you you don’t need a holiday office party, but we’re telling you right now that they’re mistaken. You totally need a holiday office party. And if you’re thinking Christmas cookies in the break room or some lackluster pizza delivery to the office, you’re thinking way too small. Creating the kind of holiday party that people actually want to go to is possible, and you won’t have to break into anyone’s 401K to make it happen.

Getting swanky at the W Hotel isn’t the only way to create a memorable night for your people. If that’s your company’s style and your budget allows for something glammed out, awesome! Go with it! But don’t believe the myth that that’s the only way to make your team feel appreciated. A party is only as much fun as the people allow themselves to have, and you really don’t need stacks of dollar bills to make that happen. You just need to get creative and thoughtful with the budget you’re working with. Create enthusiasm and never apologize for your party!

Here’s some tips on how to do it up right:

Use what you’ve got

Use what you got Holiday Office Party

The office is a prime place to have a party because it’s free and you’re already there! Just designate your party location and make it feel less officey. Switch off those overhead fluorescent lights if you have them, and bring in some soft lighting and string up some Christmas lights. Play fun Christmas music, and have people dress to impress – whether that’s Snuggies and tacky sweaters or stilettos and bowties. Move out things like desks and staplers, and hit the thrift store for inexpensive decorations. It only takes a few simple moves to make your office feel merry and bright.

Consider doing a New Years Party in January instead

January Holiday Office Party

If you’re really set on having a party outside of the office, consider throwing it in January. People are busy around the holidays, and party space at a venue is more expensive in December than any other time of the year. Call it a New Years party, and negotiate a price with the venue. January is likely slow for them, and you might be able to wrangle an amazing deal.

Skip the caviar and champagne, but never the food

Never skip the food Holiday Office Parties

Your people probably don’t expect your holiday office party to be like a lavish soiree thrown by Jay-Z and Beyonce post Grammy’s — or even want it to. Pouring Chandon and indulging in imported truffles really isn’t what most people want, and it might send your accountants into cardiac arrest calculating the cost in their heads. But don’t you dare think about skipping out on food. The food and drink are what makes a party a party.

Call Foodee. Trust me on this. Call Foodee, tell them what you’re trying to do and what your budget is. The food comes from the city’s best restaurants and is usually way better and more cost effective than using a caterer. A local food expert will take care of everything from menu selection to delivery and set up. You have more important things to do, like purchasing fake reindeer and persuading the intern to not overdo it at the party. Don’t stress yourself out with making the food perfect yourself. You have Foodee for that.  

Make it fun enough that everyone wants to come, but don’t mandate attendance

Make it fun enough that everyone wants to come, but don’t mandate attendance Holiday Office Party

Warning: you will likely have some Scrooges among you. You’ll also have people who roll their eyes at company parties (I bet you can immediately think of who they are). Not everyone’s going to be amped for a mandatory party outside of work hours during the busiest season of the year. You have a couple of choices on how to deal with this. You can make sure your party is so dope that no one would ever want to miss it (suggested). Or you can make attendance voluntary to keep dark clouds from raining on the parade. How fun does a mandated party sound to you? When coming to the party is a choice, you’ll get a happier group of people who want to be there. The smaller size will also give you more money to work with per-person.

Don’t throw an exclusive party just for the people at the top

Some companies subconsciously (or consciously) divide up their people into the A team (executives, directors) and the B team (everyone else). These companies sometimes throw separate parties. We don’t recommend doing this because it makes your B team feel like what they work so hard doing isn’t that prized or important. And when that happens they’ll likely be tempted to perform more like a C team. Throwing elite parties for the top people is expensive, and if you put that money instead into one big company party, you have a lot more to work with. If your executives complain about having to party with the B team, maybe you need new executives.

Do Lunch Instead of Dinner

Do lunch instead of dinner Holiday Office Party

Remember that some people dread company parties because they would rather spend nights hanging with their friends and family instead. Don’t take it personally. A lunch in the office frees them from having to make the sacrifices required for a night out like paying for a baby sitter, feeling obligated to give up a Friday night, or having to see Jan from accounting. Office parties aren’t always the thing people want to do with their free time, and lucky for you there aren’t any rules for when your party has to be.

Treating everyone to a delicious lunch delivered to the office and then spending the rest of the afternoon doing something fun can be the solution you’re looking for. Lunch tends to be less expensive than dinner, and can be just as enjoyable. Have the food delivered and set up, so you don’t have to miss out on enjoying a good time.

Never underestimate the power of beer

Never underestimate the power of beer Holiday Office Parties

Top shelf cocktails and primo wine will run out your budget faster than you can say Blanc en Blanc. Alternatively, you get top notch craft beers for a lot less while still keeping the drink selection high quality. Provide cider for those who don’t like beer. If it fits your company vibe, get a keg delivered to the office of something local and inexpensive and go wild. You don’t need Crystal popping all over the office to create a great time.

Party with the neighbors

Renting out event space can be super expensive. But anyone who’s ever lived with roommates knows that by sharing you can get a better place for half the money. See what the company who shares your floor is doing. Maybe they’re worried about the cost of renting a space too, and might welcome the opportunity to split it with you. It also might give you a chance to find out how much fun they are outside of the 9 to 5.

Find out what your office really wants for Christmas

Find out what your office really wants for Christmas Holiday Office Party

Every company culture is different. You might have the kind of office that wants to throw back eggnog competitively, and then swing from the holly adorned chandeliers. These are the same people who will want to run around the office like Kevin McAllister in Home Alone. And that’s ok, because that’s free. Plan for it, and make sure there are designated drivers and ibuprofen on deck. On the other end of the spectrum, your people might want to gather around a piano in sweaters and sing carols with hot chocolate. Also totally cool. Ask around a bit, get a pulse on what sounds fun, and then work from there. You might be surprised at how simple it is to make your.

Work can be hard, and office tensions can run high, especially during the holidays. Reward your people for their hard work they put in over the last year, even if your resources are thin. A party communicates how much your company appreciates its people, and can create the kind of shared memories that strengthen teams and fuel company loyalty.

If you’re feeling the aftereffects of a good holiday get-together, here are some tips for a swift recovery.

Photos: Markus Spiske, Picjumbo, Unsplash, Katie ChaseMeghan Duthu, Kaboompics, Adam Wilson
Abbie Riley

About Abbie

Abbie Riley works and lives in Philadelphia. She loves to explore the ever-changing intersection of food and tech, and has worked for HeyLets, Zomato/Urbanspoon, and Foodee. For a list of Philly restaurants, ask her for her credit card bill.

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