Holiday Party Planning

Tips for Inclusion

The end of the year is creeping up on us, and it’s time to start thinking about the (dreaded), most anticipated event of the season — The Annual Non-Denominational Holiday Party!

Whether you’re looking at a small intimate gathering or a large group event, there are a few rules to remember when throwing a party to ensure everyone has a good time.

Plan to plan

Before you can even get into the nitty-gritty details of what your event will look like, you’ll need to make time to do some research. For example, how many people will be coming? Do you need to factor in accessibility features for any guests? What about food restrictions? When striving for an inclusive end-of-year party, you’ll want to address these questions.

Making a list of questions that a simple google search can’t answer can feel daunting, especially when planning to host something for more than ten people. If you are looking at a large gathering, your best bet is to find a few volunteers to start a party committee. Remember, the more diverse your group, the more inclusive the event should be.

When planning your event, set aside at least an hour to brainstorm this list of questions and think through how you will find the answers. Some employees may be sensitive about answering questions about special diets and how they celebrate the holidays, so an anonymous survey can help scope out what people think when it comes to celebrations at work.

Check the Date

You probably have a few dates in mind, but have you checked to ensure there’s no overlap with any upcoming holidays? A quick search can bring you up to speed about any holidays in the next few weeks. This will keep you from unintentionally excluding individual groups due to religious obligations. For example, you might opt for a date earlier in the season or skip straight past it and look at a New Year’s theme instead.

Speaking of themes…

Your best bet is to keep your theme vague — no Christmas or Holiday Parties here. Instead, opt for a more general tone of Winter Party or End of the Year Celebration. Sure, everyone will know you’re just trying to be politically correct, but it will keep you from trending for all the wrong reasons.

Or you could get creative and center your event around a Wrap Party or Ugly Sweater Brunch. Regardless of the theme, ensure everyone feels welcomed and it’s an optional get-together. You want people to know how much you appreciate them.

Feed your People

Both literally and figuratively. If your event has food involved, make sure you have options for anyone who has allergies, is gluten or dairy free, is vegan or vegetarian, or doesn’t drink. A potluck is a great way to cover all bases if you are not having the event catered or at a restaurant. However, the best parties are the ones that take place away from the office.

Providing flexibility during the holiday season is another excellent way to care for everyone. Most people are faced with a ton of obligations during the holidays. Your staff has been invited to their partner’s work parties, their extended family’s get-together, their kid’s play (and likely their nephew’s play and their neighbor’s kid’s play). A lot is going on all at once. So be understanding and offer them leeway regarding fixed and tight schedules.

Gift Giving

There are two kinds of people, those who like giving gifts to coworkers and those that dread it. Trying to come up with ways to get everyone in a gift-giving mood can be difficult, mainly because not everyone celebrates the season the way you do.

Instead of mandating a secret Santa or white elephant event, consider making an anonymous group donation to a local charity that aligns with your company values or doing a book drive for the children’s shelter. Both allow for a sense of giving and create a community and team effect instead of individual responsibility for a tradition that appeals to a small group.

Decorations, yes or no?

If you want to decorate the office for a few weeks, go for it!

Skip putting up a Christmas tree or nativity scene and go straight to the sparkly blue snowflakes. Most work spaces follow a neutral or monochrome design, so adding some color, sparkles, and lights will go a long way in putting everyone in a cheerful mood during these shorter and colder days. So hold off on the holiday music, though; there’s enough of that playing at every grocery store and gas station already.

More than anything, you want to encourage people to come together and celebrate with one another. It may take extra time and planning to ensure everyone feels welcomed and included, but in the end, you’ll be glad you put in the effort.

Looking for ideas or assistance, please contact us at info@deependstrategies.com

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Shawna Lake

Founder of Deep End Talent Strategies-keeping job seekers and employers connected to what the other side needs and wants in today’s job market.