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Stay off the HR Naughty List, with These 5 Office Holiday Party Tips

Holiday parties are incredibly common events in the workplace, with nearly 80% of employers hosting them, according to a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

But should they be so popular?

Employees, for their part, are lukewarm on them. One survey found that only 36% of employees would describe company holiday parties as fun, and 35% actually rate them negatively. Worse, holiday parties create a danger zone of inappropriate and potentially legally actionable behavior. According to research from party planning platform Evite, “40% of employees will witness some piece of office drama unfold, and 37% will see some sort of intra-office hookup.”

“Anything can happen in an office holiday party,” says Julian Clark, Evite’s in-house party specialist.

For that reason, businesses need to ensure that the event does not subject anyone to unwanted or inappropriate interactions. Here are a few steps employers can take to keep their parties employee (and lawyer) friendly.

1: Understand why you’re offering the party.

What are the underlying goals of hosting the event? Employers might want to reward employees for a productive year, emphasize teambuilding and company cohesion, give employees a break from holiday stress, and so on. Consider if there are ways of achieving those goals without an event that risks inappropriate behavior.

2: Rethink the timing of the holiday party.

Instead of letting the holiday party run with an open bar until the wee hours of the morning – when partiers are most likely to find themselves stumbling drunkenly into bad decisions – consider shutting down early, or even holding the party during standard work hours.

3: Limit the availability of alcohol and/or provide rides home.

If alcohol will be served, consider using a drink ticket system that limits workers to a couple of drinks. Then, consider providing free or subsidized rides via taxi or ridesharing service for employees who may be too intoxicated to drive themselves.

4: Remind employees in advance what is appropriate behavior.

The real concern about office parties is that the employer will be held responsible for the behavior of employees. Employers can insulate themselves if they take steps to ensure that employees know what you will accept and what might result in disciplinary action.

5. Incorporate activities into the party.

Avoid provocative or innuendo-laden party games but other activities, like a white elephant gift exchange, can be very fun and offer partygoers an enjoyable way to spend their time at the party without making constant trips to the bar.

CoAdvantage, one of the nation’s largest Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs), helps small to mid-sized companies with HR administration, benefits, payroll, and compliance. To learn more about our ability to create a strategic HR function in your business that drives business growth potential, contact us today.