The end of the calendar year often brings thoughts of sugarplums and office parties. Project managers can take advantage of the holiday spirit to say thank you and build some “social” team spirit. If your idea of a holiday celebration means ordering-in sandwiches or pizza on the last day before everyone takes off on vacation – great, go for it. If you are considering hosting a more formal party, you have some decisions to make, plans to develop and risks to manage – just like managing a project.
Here is a bit of unsolicited advice based on observation and experience:
- Find out if your company has a policy on holiday parties or is planning an organization-wide event. Is there a fund to cover expenses? Whose permission do you need? These issues are more likely to arise in large companies. In smaller companies, management usually discusses and decides on holiday activities at a staff meeting and moves forward from there to planning.
- Decide whom to invite. Do you want the team only, project only or organization-wide get together? Spouses and significant others? Or, a family event? And do you invite outside staff? Or how about customers and clients? These decisions are important, but not show stoppers.
- Decide on a time and location based on the size of the group and the type of event – and money. For off-site celebrations, make reservations early – like in August (So you are already late if you are reading this in December!). Check on availability of tables, chairs, AV equipment.
- Get some help. You already have a full time job and the amount of effort and detail management required to pull off a great holiday party may amaze you. But usually there are staff who are delighted to help in planning a party!
- Send out invitations early to give people time to clear their schedule – at least 30 days in advance is the best rule.
- How about presents? Do you want to do white elephants, gag gifts, special Santa, selected charity gifts, company gifts to each employee, or no presents? Word of advice – don’t just give out corporate logo stuff – save this for other occasions.
- Food – Do you have a catered meal, sit down dinner (either with wait-staff or buffet), appetizers only or do you want to provide the main course and have everyone bring something? (I really like pot luck because I find that many staff have a great hobby called “cooking”)
- Alcohol – this is a really important decision because of liability under social host laws. I refer you to this suggested approach from Legal Zoom. Your company may also have specific rules, so check with HR.
- Music? Games? Entertainment? Decorations? Have something fun – it is a party.
- Have a good time. An office party or project party – even when you are in charge – should not be an ordeal to get through. It should be something that lets the people you work with relax, get to know each other and have some fun.
Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, and best wishes for your projects!