Are you downsizing the holiday party this year? — Business Management Daily: Free Reports on Human Resources, Employment Law, Office Management, Office Communication, Office Technology and Small Business Tax Business Management Daily
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Are you downsizing the holiday party this year?

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Question: “My company has decided not to do the usual Christmas party this year. In the past, it’s been a huge affair for all employees and their families. This year, we are planning to hold “something” at the office just for staff. I’d like to know what other companies are doing this year and any ideas for in-house parties.” — P.T.

From moderator, Alice Bumgarner:

If your office is still debating whether or not to have its end-of-the-year party (minus the ice swans), consider this bit of advice from John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas: Party on, in some form. A year-end celebration can help workers get to know and trust one another in an era when turnover and telecommuting makes that difficult.

But if celebrating is definitely not an option, due to a bare-bones budget, think creatively about a low- or no-cost reward for employees. For example, employees at Viacom, where quarterly profit plunged 37 percent, will get two extra paid days off instead of invitations to chic parties hosted by such divisions as MTV and Paramount Pictures (from Associated Press).

See Comments below

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

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anon December 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm

correction…only certain employees get two paid days off…not everyone :(


Jodi November 26, 2008 at 3:32 pm

Our company does not provide for our Holiday celebration. Throughout the year, we hold little “fundraisers”, like 50/50 drawings…50% to the winner, 50% to the Holiday fund…or we bring in our old books, magazines, DVDs, video games, CDs…and sell them with all proceeds going to the Holiday fund. Then we use that money to cater in a meal.


Judy November 26, 2008 at 9:33 am

As a non-profit healthcare facility we continue to strugle with budget and cuts in reimbursement rates. We have decided to hold the annual holiday celebration to show our apprecitation to the volunteer Board of Trustees members, our Department Managers and Medical Staff. I have worked closely with the cateror to keep the costs as low as possible but still have the WOW factor.

We have elected not to schedule a Holiday Dinner just for the Board of Trustees after the holidays.


anonymus November 25, 2008 at 4:21 pm

Every year the agency I work for supplys the meat and everyone usually brings a covered dish. Then we play what is called “Bloody Bingo”, everyone brings a white elephant gift wrapped very nicely. As we play bingo, everyone picks up a gift as they win. When the gifts are all gone from under the tree, then we keep playing bingo and you can steal each others gifts. They are still wrapped, so know one knows what they are getting until the end. We set a timer and when the timer goes off, you get whatever gift you have. We have a great time. We also get a gift card for groceries to a local grocery store, usually 25.00 for part time, 50.00 for full time.


Peggy November 25, 2008 at 4:15 pm

Thanks to everyone that replied. We have decided to hold a scaled down party at the office, and include families. Someone will dress up as Santa and hand out small gift bags, we’ll have a jumping castle and a movie shown in the conference room for the kids, games, food, beer and wine, and sodas for the kids. We always take digital pictures of the event and we take “polaroids” of the kids on Santa’s lap to take with them.


SVP November 25, 2008 at 4:13 pm

We are a small group (all women) of 10. Normally we go out to dinner with spouses in tow. This year we are going to have a small luncheon, cookie exchange & secret pal reveal.


Anonymous November 21, 2008 at 2:14 pm

We haven’t had a Christmas party in years……. ba hum bug :(


jlynns November 21, 2008 at 1:12 pm

Birdie – the table decorating is a great idea. In light of the economy our company has decided to scale way back and eliminate all Holiday parties – which in the past have been on a pretty grand scale. We employee over 3000 people nationwide. This idea sounds fun and every location could participate if they wanted.


Diana November 21, 2008 at 12:55 pm

We will probably do the same as every year. We have a very nice dinner at a restaurant or country club for employees and spouses. But we also have a lunch at work for employees and we do a gift exchange where everyone brings something (can be white elephant or gag gift) and we draw numbers to see which gift we get. It is casual and fun.


Anonymous November 17, 2008 at 10:37 am

In the past, we have had holiday celebrations that included both the employee and their spouse. It was usually a nice, upscale dinner and an evening event ($50-100 per person). This year we are limiting it to employee’s only and staying around $20 per person with a nice lunch.


Lisa November 17, 2008 at 9:37 am

There are about 24 of us in this office and one year, we all went out to lunch at an upscale restaurant, paying ourselves. When we returned to the office, we gathered in a large conference room and had a white elephant exchange. A week before the luncheon, we were asked to bring something, whether it was new or old, purchased or just laying around our homes collecting dust and it had to be wrapped. So at the exchange, all our names were placed in a hat. The first person chose a wrapped gift and opened it, allowing all to see the item. The next person chose a name and is allowed to pick a new wrapped gift or to take the gift that another person had picked, and so on. It lasted about a hour and a half and there were lots of laughs and “stealing” going on. There is always that one gift that everyone wants!!!!!


Sherri November 15, 2008 at 7:26 pm

My agency stopped doing an employee recognition/holiday party a few years ago due to budget cuts. This year the staff I work with are just doing a potluck in the office during the lunch hour.


B N November 14, 2008 at 5:29 pm

My orgainzation has a Festivus celebration the week before Christmas. We break up employees into 5 groups – one group for each day of the week. Each group picks a theme and brings decorations and food to go with that theme. They also pick a 1.5 hr time slot on their day for their Festivus celebration. Everyone else is invited to show up for a few minutes during that time slot (usually using break time or lunch) to enjoy the food and fun. We’ve had groups provide brunch, soup lunches, or afternoon desserts. It’s fun to see what people come up with. At the end of the week, certificates are awarded for categories like most unusual, most creative, etc.


Angie November 14, 2008 at 4:46 pm

We always do a pot luck at Christmas. Our company never does a family get together. We just have a sign up sheet on who will do the setting up, and who will do the cleaning up. There is abput 41 of us and it works out well.


John A. November 14, 2008 at 4:43 pm

We have planned the same event that we have had for the last several years. We rent a luxury box at a local baseball stadium. There is great food, open bar, dance floor, karaoke, billiards, darts, etc. Its very elegant and the firm usually budgets an impressive amount for the affair.


KNL November 14, 2008 at 4:17 pm

Some of the best holiday parties we’ve had have been internal/low-key ones! In the past, we’ve closed the office from 11am until 3pm. During this time we enjoyed a small lunch & a rather large dessert buffet. We turned the desserts into a contest. People brought in their favorite homemade dessert & entries were numbered. After lunch everyone would vote for their favorite. Winner would receive a $25 or $50 gift card & title of best dessert for the year. We would also have a white-elephant gift exhange. These are a blast & can turn into quite the event all alone! Usually, depending on the work load at the office, the boss would send everyone home after the gift exchange/white elephant portion – and give them the last 2 hours off paid as a thank you & happy holidays to the staff. They love it!


Marie November 14, 2008 at 4:15 pm

You can approach your partners and vendors and ask if they are interested in donating gift baskets, gift cards, catered items etc. to your holiday party. We have received many items that way. We are a non-profit, so that may make a difference. But if you are spending big money partnering with big companies, you would be surprised what they might do to keep good will.


Eileen November 14, 2008 at 4:05 pm

I arrange these events at my company, and yes, we are downsizing.

Instead of a dinner at the country club with a band (on a weekend night) we are dining at an inn near the offices, right after work on a Friday.

No spouses or SOs (most spouses I overhear don’t like attending these events in any case, or so they say).

However, as there will be no room rental I am planning much nicer gifts; we’ll have drawings for $25 gift cards, a Tiffany pen, and a few other things, rather than the nicely wrapped fancy cookies from last year.

People are still welcome to dress festively, but office attire is acceptable.


Anon in NY November 14, 2008 at 4:01 pm

There will be no Christmas Party this year!


Jocelyn November 14, 2008 at 3:51 pm

Anonymous #1, would not have said it any differently.


Anonymous November 14, 2008 at 3:49 pm

In the spirit of giving, we are adopting several needy familys through a local charity organization to dispense with the gift giving with each other and for our office party, we are bringing in some deli platters of appitizers and some beer and wine to keep it simple. Staff and their spouse’s or significant others will be included and we will have our event right after work for just a couple of hours. We will go all out for decorations to celebrate the season. In the spirit of the economy, we all need to cut back right now.


Birdie November 14, 2008 at 3:42 pm

In light of all the economy and financial stressors out there, the health system has opted to forgo the usual holiday party. In its place, each facility is donating the amount usually spent on their party to a financial assistance fund for employees. We have decided to have a small social during work hours in which each department will be in charge of decorating a table in the cafeteria and providing desserts and snacks. Everyone wins!


Anonymous November 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm

My employer for several years alternated between a catered meal and a potluck where they provided beverages, meat and a park pavilion. It was nice but was difficult for us to provide dishes since our party always takes place on a Friday afternoon – we don’t have the room to store several dishes or to plug in several crockpots so many of us (especially those who lived farther away) would have to stop at a grocery store on our way to the pavilion and pick up something – which almost always turned out to be a dessert!)


ANON November 14, 2008 at 3:20 pm

You definitely need to have it catered and make it as nice as your budget will allow. See if a co-worker knows of someone who is in a band or knows a harpist. Decorate as much as possible, buy inexpensive gifts, have someone dress up as Santa and take pictures–download them, print them, place in frames and give out, have a bar with beer and wine, etc.


Anonymous November 14, 2008 at 3:10 pm

the company I work for values its employees, and decides to show it through the christmas party each year, satisfactory raises, and bonuses. Even during hard times the company knows that we are working hard and deserve to be shown the appreciation. Our holiday party will be just as fantastic as the previous years’ were.


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