Ideas for Office Holiday Celebrations During Hard Times

Office Holiday Celebration IdeasThe holidays are traditionally a time for some fun, employee recognition, parties, and even bonuses.

As 2010 ends, most businesses find themselves still coping with diminished sales and shrinking budgets.  It’s hard to not feel like Scrooge, as we cut back on what makes our offices merry during this time of year!

All of these traditional celebrations and perks are done to show employee appreciation, and to boost employee morale.  As we cut back on them, we still need to ask ourselves, “How will we demonstrate to our employees how important they are to the company?”

Indeed, our loyal employees who have suffered and sacrificed with us through this recession are undoubtedly our most important asset!

How to hold a less expensive (but just as merry) company holiday party:

If you’ve traditionally had a holiday party, don’t throw the idea out the window without first asking if there is a financially feasible alternative.  Large company-sponsored parties with employees, spouses, and sometimes even entire families can be a huge expense for a business.

If your company has been in the downsizing mode, it only makes sense to downsize the party.  There are many creative ideas to consider:

  • Explore less expensive venues: It may save money to rent a hall, such as a grange or community center, and use a lower cost caterer.  If you have a small company, holding the event in someone’s home can also lower the cost.
  • Consider having a potluck: Another possibility is to have the event be potluck, with the company providing some of the most expensive items, such as the meat or main dishes.
  • Have management cook for and serve the staff: If your employees hate potlucks, how about having the management prepare the food and serve the employees?  It’s a wonderful way to show appreciation for the hard work everyone has put in throughout the year, and an opportunity for some fun banter and merriment.
  • Ditch the fancy-schmancy party clothes: Have the evening’s attire be more casual, so employees don’t have the expense of purchasing a new outfit.
  • Host a fun in-office lunch shindig: Why does your company holiday party have to be a dinner?  Bringing in a holiday lunch for the staff eliminates the extra expense of spouses, but still contributes to morale.  If you go this route, however, remember that it’s not much fun to eat in your cubicle!  Make sure to spend a little to decorate and turn the event into something special.
  • Hold your party at a less-traditional, cheaper time: If you still want to eat out, call around for possible discounts.  It may be cheaper to hold your party on a weeknight, than a weekend.  Some companies schedule their year end celebration parties in January.  Not only is this a less stressful time to get everyone together, but restaurants and hotels are not as busy, and may be more likely to negotiate with you on pricing.
  • Use your own decorations and music to cut party costs: In the good years, our celebrations were more lavish and you may have added some fun elements that will now save you money by trimming.  Holiday decorations are a good place to start.  If you need some that you can’t bring from home, try discount stores.  Music is an added expense that can be eliminated.  For instance, if you used to have a DJ or band, why not hook up to the stereo system with an Ipod that’s already loaded with appropriate music.
  • Cut back on the booze: Alcohol can be one of the biggest expenses of any party.  If you don’t want to eliminate it, give out drink tickets to limit consumption, or have a cash bar.  This has the additional benefit of limiting your liability.

Other ways to show your staff appreciation during the holidays:

The holidays are always a time of gift giving.  Now, more than ever, your employees will appreciate a gift that tells them you appreciate their efforts.

  • Give your employees gift cards: Keep in mind that individuals and families have more financial pressures than ever before.  Instead of giving them something with the corporate logo on it, which may end up in their charity donation pile, consider a grocery store gift card, mall gift card, or straight out cash.  It’ll be appreciated more if it comes early enough to be spent on holiday expenses!  And remember, it’s not the size of the gift, but the thought behind it.
  • Give your staff the gift of more free time: Time off can also be a great reward for your employees.  Can you offer an employee an extra day off between Thanksgiving and Christmas to do their holiday shopping?  With all of us under so much stress, you’ll make an employee happy and probably more productive the rest of the time.
  • Make sure everyone feels recognized and appreciated: Sometimes it’s the little things that mean the most.  Do you send each employee a personal holiday card, telling them how much you appreciate what they’ve done for you?  Are you visible to your staff, and communicating often about what’s going on with the company?  Employee morale is affected by uncertainty and a lack of appreciation and understanding.  It might be a gift of your time to your employees that means the most.
  • Organize charitable activities: Sometimes it helps for all of us to remember that there are those who are worse off than we are.  Despite lean times, we and our staff still have jobs, and there are many without!  Consider adopting a family for the holidays, or give employees a little time off to help a local charity. If this fits your company’s culture you can help them by promoting opportunities, such as four hours off to fill Thanksgiving food baskets, to set up for a charity’s holiday fundraiser, or to assist with a school’s holiday event.

Take steps to reduce your staff’s holiday-related stress:

We all know too well the stress that the holidays cause.  There’s more to do than time allows, extra expenses that we can’t afford, and evening and weekend commitments that eat into our precious free time

There’s also extra food, and sometimes more drink, that we can later end up regretting for months to come.  You don’t want to contribute to any of that if you can help it.  Keeping the office treats under control will probably be appreciated by your staff.

If possible, reduce or eliminate overtime.  And lighten up a bit!

Employees may do a little online shopping, have to take a longer lunch hour for an errand, or need a little flexibility in their schedules.  Just during this time, can you live with this?

One company offered free gift wrapping, purchased the materials and brought in a temporary employee for one day.  Imagine how much less stress you’d have if you didn’t have to wrap all of your presents!

The wrap-up (no pun intended):

We’ve asked our employees to do more with less for the last couple years, and they know as well as we do that the hard times are not over.  They don’t want to see us wasting money on frivolity when they’ve worked so hard to keep the business going.  On the other hand, these stressful times make it more important than ever to get together for some fun, to show appreciation for team effort, and to say thank you for a job well done.

Someone once said, “If there is no joyous way to give a festive gift, give love away.”

Originally published in the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal.

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