Your Office Holiday Party Doesn't Have to Be Lame (Even in a Recession)
As recently as last year, the holiday office party was a really big deal in England, where drinking to excess and even injury is considered almost a patriotic duty (see the Washington Post: In Britain, A Respected, If Rowdy, Holiday Ritual), but the US has its share of jokes about indiscretions around the punchbowl at the office party. This year, however, trends are already indicating that fewer companies were planning to hold holiday parties (down to 77% from 90% in 2007, according to CNBC's article Holiday Office Parties Expected to Be Lamer Than Usual. You don't need to accept that this prediction will necessarily come true because of the recession, however.
There are some great things about the holiday season around just about any office:
Good food starts showing up; even some of the most reserved workers may display unusual good cheer; and most of all, holiday parties and time off mean a break from the routine. How can you capitalize on the best of the holiday season without you (or your business) laying out a bunch of money on cards, gifts, or parties? You can Simplify the Holidays in your office by keeping in mind that what really matters may be close at hand.
Party Smart If your office is one of the lucky ones that's still flush after recent economic news, it still may not feel right to tuck in to a multi-course restaurant meal in the middle of a recession. Consider downsizing your party plans and donating the money to charity. As Grist suggests in "The Frill Is Gone: How to green your office holiday party," one way to share the impact of a party is to combine small parties into one "Big Little Holiday Party." If you work in a big office building or a business district, you can think of this shared party like a variation on a "house crawl" where each business is a host for one course of a multi-course fun-and-networking extravaganza.
Gifts, indeed Exchanging gifts with every co-worker can get expensive, and selecting a few can be contentious. One way around this is the White Elephant gift exchange, wherein each participant brings an inexpensive gift (or re-gift) and everyone passes on presents with the object of getting the one they really want. If you decide you'd rather give to charity, the Alternative Gift Registry is a way to anonymously track donations to whichever worthy cause you choose.
Reuse/recycle that cheer You and your coworkers can donate to charity without spending a cent. Many charities sponsor toy drives, coat drives, and other collections of gently used items. Something more to the point around your office would be to recycle toner cartridges for charity. By cooperating with other businesses you can instill this good green practice in others beyond your immediate work team.
Decorate (no reindeer required) Sometimes skipping the obligation of presents or the opportunity for boozy indiscretions before the open bar is a good thing. That doesn't mean your workplace can't spread some cheer in your office that outlasts the holiday season. Most of us don't pay enough attention to the environment in which we spend at least 8 hours a day. Why not dedicate a day or two to escape from the barrage of emails, concentrate on beautifying the office, and be rewarded with a more pleasant work environment? Work together to clean up (and shred and recycle) those looming piles of papers. Bring in plants (or tend to the ones you have). Hang pictures or even paint (with eco-friendly paints) and award prizes—Most Creative Cubicle, Most Improved…The possibilities for sprucing up your office or cubicle are endless, and provide a much-needed break from the routine. You can even crank up the music while you're beautifying (Christmas carols optional).
Just like outside of the office, holidays in the office turn out best when everyone communicates their comfort level. A unilateral decision to not have (or have) a party is likely to dampen holiday spirits rather than raise them. And reassure everyone in your workplace that no matter what you decide to do, Santa hats are always welcome.