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Funny how the holidays can be both the most anticipated and the most dreaded season at the same time: Everyone in the office is excited to spend some time off with their families, but as the business owner, you have the added responsibility of throwing your employees a memorable seasonal send-off.
While not a requirement, throwing an end-of-year holiday party is a nice fringe benefit that doesn’t have to cost a lot but is a great way to show your employees that you care.
We don’t want you to stress over the planning, though—so we’ve put together a list of 22 fun, creative, and mostly low-lift office holiday party ideas. That way, you can spend less time in planning-mode and more time in party-mode. Let’s get this party started, shall we?
No matter how large or small your business or what kind of celebration you’re looking for, one of these 22 office holiday party ideas is bound to be the right fit for your business without derailing your budget.
Potlucks are a classic (read: foolproof) office holiday party idea—or a great way to celebrate any occasion. This season, make yours festive by asking everyone to bring a dish that represents how their family or heritage celebrates the holidays. Not only will you end up with a feast fit for the occasion, but you’ll also get to sample dishes from around the world. For a different spin on the potluck model, bigger companies can ask each department to take on a different course (IT for apps, Biz Dev for drinks, Operations for the sides, etc.)—just make sure each team sticks with the “festive” theme, of course.
The holidays are all about comfort, so relive your childhood in the office by bringing in old-school board games, like Parcheesi, Guess Who?, Monopoly, Jenga, and Operation, and keep fun prizes on hand for the winning players or teams. Double up on the nostalgia by serving comforting, seasonal snacks, like eggnog, hot cider, Christmas cookies, cheese and crackers, and Yule log slices.
To really go in on the retro vibes, theme your entire party around a specific era and set a dress code, soundtrack, and snacks to match. A ’50s sock-hop, swinging ’60s gala, ’70s disco, ’80s Jazzercise bash, and ’90s slacker-cartoon marathon are all accessible ways to approach the “nostalgia” theme, but if your office is especially sartorially and culinarily ambitious, consider taking on a more obscure decade. How about ’20s gangsters or taking it a few eras back and going full-on Renaissance Fair? This office holiday party idea is sure to get everyone’s creativity flowing.
Other than comfort, the holidays are all about ugly sweaters (or is that just in our office?). As a fun addition to your standard holiday party, have your employees wear their most garish, tacky, or outlandish holiday-themed knitwear to the office, then cast their votes for the team member they think deserves the coveted Ugliest Sweater Prize. Don’t have an ugly Christmas sweater in your closet? There are literally entire websites dedicated to the seasonal garment, so stock up now.
Not into the ugly-clothes thing? Go in the opposite direction and host a sophisticated soiree. Set a cocktail-attire dress code, pipe in jazz and swing Christmas songs, pick up modern, elegant holiday decorations (we recommend scouring Pinterest for ideas), serve your favorite luxe finger food (gougères, anyone?), and provide plenty of Champagne.
To truly get into the holiday spirit, use your office holiday party as an opportunity to give back to your community. Instead of swapping gifts with each other, ask everyone to make a small donation to the charity of their choice, bring in toys for a local toy drive, or ask everyone to make doubles of their potluck dishes and deliver the extra portions to your local soup kitchen.
Channel your inner Mary Berry and host your own, office-grown version of “The Great British Bake Off.” Ask your culinarily inclined team members to bring in their best, most creative homemade holiday cookies, cakes, or pastries, head up a judging panel with a few other managers, and present the winner with a fun, low-cost prize—think a comped lunch or an extra day off. For some inspiration, stream episodes of the British TV show (it’s on Netflix!) in the office in the days leading up to the competition.
If the thought of organizing a holiday party is either too overwhelming or simply unappealing to you, or if your staff just aren’t expressing so much interest in partying at the office, consider showing your goodwill with an actual gift instead. Amazon gift cards, an extra day off over the holidays, or even cash are all accessible gifts, and we guarantee that your employees will appreciate them.
For more hands-on treats, set up a DIY cocktail/mocktail bar. You can provide recipes for festive drinks (bonus points if you bring in a tray of Christmas Jello shots), or you can encourage guests to bring out their inner mixologist and create their own, bespoke drinks. Not only is this a super-fun activity for your team, but you’ll also save on hiring a bartender.
If you’re into the idea of an active office holiday party, consider taking your team on an outing to your local ice skating rink. Even the not-so-athletic among your team will enjoy watching the action (and the pratfalls) from the sidelines with a mug of hot chocolate.
It is a universally acknowledged truth that everyone loves a photo booth. Regardless of your office holiday party’s theme (or lack thereof), a photo booth is a surefire way to lighten the mood and bring out your guests’ goofy side; plus, lots of photo booth rental companies can provide fun, holiday-themed props, like Santa hats and beards. The cost of renting a photo booth depends on the vendors in your area, as well as the type of photo booth you’re renting, but you can expect to spend a few hundred dollars for your rental.
Besides photo booths, everyone also loves a food truck, so why not get your office holiday party catered by a selection of mobile cuisine? The food truck industry is booming, so you probably won’t have any trouble finding a small fleet of trucks to come to your office. And in addition to treating your employees to fun food, you’ll get to support your local food truck entrepreneurs.
For a low-key, low-cost office holiday party idea, rent a projector and play your favorite holiday movies. You can go truly old-school with films like “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “A Christmas Story,” or skew modern with new classics like “Elf” or “Love Actually.” Taste is relative, of course, so consider sending out an office-wide poll beforehand to find out what people actually want to watch. Rent a popcorn machine, kit out your office with oversized pillows and blankets, and pass around the hot chocolate (and maybe some Bailey’s).
Scavenger hunts are a classic team-building exercise, and there’s no reason why you can’t make yours a seasonal hunt. Just theme your hidden objects around the holidays—think dreidels, candy canes, or any other inexpensive tchotchkes you can find at your stationery store, drugstore, or home decor store. If you want to go all-out with your hunt, consider hiring a company that specializes in designing corporate scavenger hunts. You can find one in your area with a simple Google search.
For a fun, but less active way to get out of the office, hire a party bus or limousine to take your team on a tour of your neighborhood or city’s most stunning holiday lights. Depending on the vendor you rent from, your party bus or limo will probably already be stocked with snacks and drinks, but you can also bring along your own festive treats to really nail down the holiday theme (just ask the bus or limo rental company whether it’s okay to BYO).
If you want to switch things up from your standard evening party, consider organizing a festive brunch gathering, instead. Find a caterer that can offer both decadent options, like French toast, cinnamon buns, and quiches, as well as health-conscious options, like a DIY acai, smoothie, or oatmeal bowl station. Don’t forget the coffee, mimosas, and Bloody Marys, too. You’ll need to be willing to give your employees the morning or day off for this one (especially if you offer those mimosas or Bloodys), but a brunch might be a better option if you have employees with children, as they won’t need to find a babysitter to accommodate an evening party.
Use the free time afforded by your holiday party to be a tourist in your own city. Take your team to a spot or a landmark that’s special to your area, which is what Deborah Sweeney, the CEO of MyCorporation, often does for her office parties:
“Our office is in Calabasas, California, so we’re able to do slightly more Southern California-centric outings since we don’t have to worry about the weather being a major factor outside. One year, we did the Malibu Wines Safari where we were able to ride in Jeeps with tour guides, visit and feed the animals, and sip wine. Another year, we took a boat out on the Ventura Harbor and enjoyed a seaside sail. To get to our locations safely, I arrange for a party bus, loaded with snacks, drinks, and music, to come and pick us up from the office—and the fun begins!”
This season, kill two birds with one stone: Throw a party and get all your gifts wrapped ahead of the holiday. Invite your employees to bring in their holiday presents and creative gift wrapping materials to share, set yourselves up on the floor or in a conference room, and get wrapping. Pipe in holiday music, serve holiday snacks and drinks, and decorate your office to enhance the party vibe.
Axe throwing: It’s the new bowling. Axe throwing sessions typically last a few hours, during which time an axe-throwing pro will instruct your team how to throw an axe without injuring themselves or others, then split you up into teams for a bit of friendly competition. Lots of axe-throwing facilities actually specialize in hosting corporate events, so you can likely find a venue in your area that can help you plan, decorate, and cater your bash. Who knew weaponry could be so festive?
There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned (staged) murder to forge your team members closer together. So for this year’s holiday party, throw your employees for a loop by hosting a murder mystery party rather than your run-of-the-mill cookies-and-cocktails affair. Luckily, there are a ton of companies that specialize in designing and facilitating corporate murder mystery parties, so all you really have to do is hire a company, ask your employees to dress up in Clue-inspired costumes, and work together to figure out whodunit.
Even if your office isn’t typically “creative,” working on simple crafts is a great way for your staff to unwind and have some relaxed, low-stakes fun. There are so many holiday-themed crafts you can create, too: Try building a non-traditional Christmas tree, decorating wreaths or ornaments, or going old-school and stringing some popcorn garlands. Or go for edible DIY crafts, like setting up a sugar cookie decorating station, a gingerbread house station, and a bespoke hot chocolate bar stocked with different types of chocolates, milk alternatives, marshmallows, sprinkles, candy canes, spices, and hot chocolate-friendly booze. You can also consider making your arts-and-crafts celebration a family-friendly affair and invite your employees with children to bring in the kids.
Typically, “progressive” dinners involve hopping from house to house for every course of the meal. But for small offices, you can stick with one host and use rooms in lieu of houses, which cuts down on logistical planning. That’s what Kapwing CEO Julia Enthoven did for her seven-person startup’s holiday party last year:
“For our holiday party, we had a ‘progressive’ at my home. Every room of the house had a different activity and drink to go along with it. We bobbed for apples in the master bathroom (cider), had a photo booth in the bedroom (White Claw), played an ice-breaker called ‘snowflakes’ in the living room (raspberry cocktails), decorated a small tree in the dining room, and had takeout dinner on the rooftop. It was very inexpensive and DIY, but felt full of festivity and holiday cheer.”
Of course, you can always stick with the traditional progressive and ask a few employees to volunteer as hosts and open up their homes. Just make sure that every car is assigned a designated driver, offer the company card to pay for Ubers or Lyfts, or take a cue from Deborah Sweeney and hire a party bus to chauffeur everyone to each mini-party.
We hope this list of office holiday party ideas has provided you with some inspiration for your celebration this year, but we also hope that you maintain some perspective about what an office holiday party is actually about: Demonstrating your gratitude for your amazing employees. So you really don’t need to overwhelm yourself with the expectation of throwing an epic holiday party. Instead, focus on throwing the kind of party that your team will truly enjoy, and which rewards them for all their hard work—and whether that includes a party bus, a DIY cocktail bar, or an ugly-sweater summit is entirely up to you.
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