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It’s the season for holiday office parties and while company leaders are excited for an opportunity to boost morale, most employees wish they could skip the festivities.

A survey from Randstad found that 90% of employees would prefer a bonus or extra time off instead of a holiday party. They also found that 62% of people only attend because they feel like they’re forced to.

A lot of the antagonism is because the parties tend to be boring, awkward affairs that don’t make employees feel appreciated or grateful to work at their companies.

Here are 6 ways to throw a holiday party that employees actually want to attend.

Photo of a team having an office party.

1) Plan a Donation Drive or Other Charitable Activity

75% of employees in Randstad’s survey said they want their companies to participate in philanthropic activities during the holidays. Celebrating the season by giving back is an effective way to make employees feel good about working for your company.

Here are some charitable activities you can host in place of a traditional holiday party:

  • Food drive
  • Warm clothing drive
  • Toy drive
  • Volunteer day

At the end of your donation drive or volunteer day, tally up the results and celebrate the impact that your team made. If you do a donation drive, make it more engaging by hosting a competition to see which team brings in the most and throwing a celebration at the end.

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2) Skip the Gift Exchange

Secret Santas and other gift exchanges are one of the most popular and dreaded holiday party activities. In Randstad’s survey, only 9% of employees said they wanted to do a gift exchange.

For most people, figuring out what gifts to buy for their significant others and family is already challenging, which makes picking a gift for a coworker they’re not close to extremely daunting.

Budgets are also strained this time of year so forcing employees to buy an extra gift - even if it’s a cheap one - can foster mild resentment.

 

3) Choose a Fun Activity Instead of a Boozy Party

One of the worst parts of holiday parties is all forced small talk since people have nothing else to do. Often people find their direct coworkers and resort to talking about work since it’s the easiest conversation topic.

To help your employees have a fun, relaxing time, plan your event around an engaging activity such as:

  • Bowling
  • A food/drink tasting
  • Ice skating

Or any other activity that’s near your office. Having something to do makes it much easier to engage in casual conversations and have a good time.

 

4) Give Out Employee Awards

Some of the best holiday parties celebrate employees for their hard work, ingenious ideas, and overall contributions to the company. In the weeks leading up to your party, invite all of your employees to nominate each other for awards that are tied to your company values. The awards can be creative and don’t need to come with prizes as long as the reasons behind them are meaningful.

The week before your event, have your managers review the nominations and select who will win. If there aren’t enough, have them create awards for employees they want to recognize.

Making an award ceremony the central part of your holiday party will show employees that you appreciate everything they do for your company.

Related: How (And Why) To Celebrate the Holidays with Global Teams

 

5) Host Your Event During Work Hours

The holidays are a very busy time for most employees. Hosting an after-hours event cuts into their time for personal activities and forces many to hire a babysitter for an event they would rather not attend.

Instead of throwing evening party, plan something during work hours and let employees leave a couple of hours early to attend. This allows your team to enjoy your event without feeling like their time would be better spent elsewhere.

Another benefit of daytime parties is that it lets the people who want to go out drinking together do so after the event while the rest can leave early to run errands or spend time with their families.

 

6) Don’t Pull Funds Away From Other Perks

90% of employees would rather have a bonus than a holiday party. Throwing a lavish event and then giving out little to no bonuses is an easy way to hurt morale and make employees feel like your company is out of touch with their needs.

If your budget is tight at the end of the year, allocate as little as possible of it to your holiday party. Use your remaining funds for bonuses, gifts, extra time off or other perks that your employees value far more than a party.

The key to throwing a holiday party that employees want to attend is planning an event that’s easy, engaging, and doesn’t take away from the kinds of appreciation that your team wants.

 

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 About the author: Emily leads Prialto's content production and distribution team with a special passion for helping people realize success. Her work and collaborations have appeared in Entrepreneur, Inc. and the Observer among others.

 

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