5 Unique Holiday Office Party Ideas

2012 Polson Office Christmas Tree

Think you can’t possibly cram down one more wiener wrap while sitting around listening to Let it Snow at another office party this year? Or, maybe you are the one tasked with planning the perfect office party, and are sweating like a snowman in front of a fire trying to figure out how to make this year’s party fun.

Either way, you and your co-workers can have a blast at the next holiday office party by “freshening up” your traditional Christmas or holiday event.  Here are five unique holiday office party ideas that are inexpensive, unique, and fun. Time to think outside the “gift” box!

Five Unique, Fun Office Party Ideas

  1. The Cookie Exchange.  Each person brings in a cookie of their choice for each employee and exchanges them.  What you end up with is a basket full of a variety of cookies to take home.  Serve them up with eggnog, milk, or coffee, and provide decorated baskets as party favors.
  2. The Ornament Exchange. Just like the cookie exchange, but each employee trades with one other employee so each person goes home with a ornament to remember the party by. Another ornament-related activity that can provide a great start to your Christmas party is to have guests guess how many ornaments are on your tree when they walk into the party; closest guess wins a prize!
  3. The Ugly Sweater Party.  Ask the employees to dress up in their favorite ugly Christmas sweater, and a prize goes to the ugliest one.  Add to the fun by playing the worst Christmas music classics and serving the worst food of the holiday season like Jell-O mold and fruitcake.
  4. The Roaming Potluck Party.  This is a great idea for budget-limited offices. Though sometimes frowned upon, potlucks can be a way for the more culinary talented to show off their skills, allow variety on a low budget, and cater to people with dietary restrictions by allowing them to prepare their own dish.  Have each person prepare something and then roam from cubicle to cubicle tasting treats or playing games. Make the potluck more fun by choosing a theme such as finger foods, cookies, desserts, foods made using pumpkin (or peppermint or chocolate), or vegetarian dishes. Award a prize for the best cubicle host/hostess.
  5. The White Elephant. Each person brings a gift of under $10 and wraps it up for the exchange.  Using a raffle, the first person picks a present of their choice.  The next person can either take the first person’s gift, or draw a new one.  If your gift is stolen, you can steal from someone else, or draw a new gift.  This goes on until the last person either draws or steals a gift.  Make it more fun by selecting a theme for the white elephant, such as gift cards, office supplies, items bought at Goodwill, re-gifts, or practical jokes.

2012 Polson Christmas Party

If you are tasked with planning this year’s holiday office party, don’t forget these simple tips for making your office party as fun, safe, and smooth-rolling as possible.

Review the Policy on Holiday “Spirits.” For government offices and schools, make sure to check policies about serving alcohol on the property well in advance.  You might decide to hold the party off-site if that’s an important factor for you. If alcohol is not an option for your party, make sure to have alternative activities to keep everyone busy.  For example, a white elephant gift exchange or interactive Christmas games (i.e., a City Hall version of “Catch Phrase”) can help keep the party going and encourage people to hang around longer.  If alcohol is available, prearranged designated drivers or keeping the number of a cab company on hand are good ideas.

Celebrate the Season of Giving.  ‘Tis the season of presents!  You can have gifts and giveaways at your event too, without breaking the budget. Ask major vendors to contribute door prizes or cash for one of your staff members to shop for door prizes. This encourages attendance, and everybody loves prizes!  Company swag, homemade treats, and coupons for office perks (such as a lunch with the boss or an extra 1/2 day off work) also make for great prizes!

Make Your List (and check it twice). Decide well in advance exactly who is invited. Is it just staff, staff and vendors, staff and spouses, or families? Have someone else view the list to make sure no one was accidentally left out.  Plan your activities according to who is invited.  For example, if families are invited, be sure to offer child care and fun activities for kids so that parents can actually enjoy the time socializing with coworkers.

Potlucks Can Ruin the Cheer. DON’T ask your staff to bring food to the party, ESPECIALLY if the party is on a weeknight after work! Seriously, everyone has enough on their “plate” so to speak, and no one wants to spend the night before cooking or have to rush home from work to whip up something for the party that evening!

Be a Traffic Buster. When deciding on a venue outside the office, choose a location nearby.  Asking people to commute to where they work is one thing, but fighting traffic across town during the holiday season is quite another.

Variety is the Spice of Life (and the key to happy noshing). Food can be tricky depending on the dietary needs of fellow staffers.  Check ahead to see if anyone has specific dietary needs, such as vegans, vegetarians, and diabetics, and be sure to offer a variety of foods.  Request that some of the dishes or appetizers be vegetarian, gluten-free, or kosher, if possible.

Set expectations ahead of time. How do you expect people to dress? Is attendance required, expected, or completely voluntary? Do you need people to RSVP by a specific date? You may have a million great party ideas but before you let your creative side take over, keep your accounting clerk hat on a bit longer and do a little calculating to determine what your budget truly allows. To avoid spreading disappointment instead of cheer, announce plans only after you’ve determined they meet your budget. And finally, now is the time to delegate responsibilities and let people know how much help you expect from them toward organizing the office holiday party. Not only is it too much stress and work for one person to handle alone, it’s more fun to plan a party as a team!

via “How to Throw an Office Party that Sizzles

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