Best Practices in HR

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Robyn Whalen
  December 4, 2018

25 Ideas to Replace Your Traditional Holiday Party

What if you put a different spin on your annual holiday party?

Office holiday parties are a great way to connect and show appreciation to staff for their hard work all year long. Instead of making it a dreaded annual event with minimal participation, have a bit of fun by thinking outside-the-box. 

Company Christmas party ideas can extend beyond the traditional food and drink spreads. No need for booze-filled events or fried food extravaganzas this holiday season.  

Unique, healthy holiday parties don’t have to be time-consuming to plan, either. In fact, most can be organized with a few days of advanced planning, depending on the size of your office staff. 

Not sure what to do?

Here’s a list of 25 company Christmas party ideas employees will love:

1. Take the Team Ice Skating or Sledding 

If you live in a place that gets a lot of snow during winter, take advantage of it. There’s nothing more holiday-like than enjoying nature’s winter wonderland. Plus, newbies on skates always provide good laughs. And, it’s great exercise. 

2. Host a Coat Drive

Many children are without winter coats. Instead of spending money on a catered meal or fancy holiday staff party, consider purchasing coats for needy children. Reach out to the local school district to find out which schools have the highest need, and what size coats to purchase. You don’t have to buy coats for an entire school to make a difference. Even one classroom might benefit from your coat drive.

3. Participate in a Holiday 5k Walk/Run

If you have staff who love to be active, sign up for a group holiday 5K walk/run. Instead of sitting around sipping cocktails at a holiday party, your staff will be burning calories instead. Once the run is over, encourage staff to head back to the office to celebrate. If the weather is cold during the run, have hot soups and hot chocolate waiting for participants. 

4. Volunteer at a Local Food Bank

Believe it or not, 51% of food programs rely on volunteers. Holidays are busy times for food banks and programs due to the increase in need. Round up your employees to go sort, pack, and organize food and get to know some of the recipients who rely on such services to survive. It may just encourage your staff to become regular volunteers.

5. Go Caroling

How fun is it to revive an old-time holiday tradition? Even if your group isn’t full of professional singers, it’s a fun activity for all who go. Consider stopping by a local nursing home and bringing candy canes or cookies for residents to enjoy while your group sings. 

6. Screen a Holiday Movie

Rent out a space to screen a holiday, family-friendly movie. Some good options include Elf, Jingle All the Way, and The Santa Clause. Serve refreshments like hot chocolate, apple cider, and Christmas snacks.

7. Vegetarian/Vegan Catered Meal or Potluck 

Instead of bringing in fatty holiday treats for workers, offer delicious vegan or vegetarian options. Plenty of restaurants serve vegetarian and vegan meals for companies with a larger catering budget. Prefer a staff potluck? Encourage staffers to bring in healthy meat-free options. Pinterest has great recipe ideas for those who might be stumped. This healthier alternative to a traditional potluck encourages better eating habits. It also reduces the number of calories and junk food employees eat during the holidays.

8. Host a Spa Day 

Hire a team of local massage therapists to provide massages at your office. Set up a separate room for employees to enjoy full-body massages. Ask therapists to bring in oils reminiscent of the holidays like peppermint or pumpkin spice. If your budget allows, give all employees massage gift certificates or raffle off an at-home spa day gift basket. 

9. Deliver Care Packages to the Homeless 

Spend the day with your team handing out care packages to the homeless in your community. Items to consider including in a backpack: socks, chapstick, and pre-packaged snacks like jerky and crackers. A roll of quarters for washing laundry is a nice touch, too. Add a Christmas card with a heartfelt message to brighten the recipient’s day. 

10. Donate on Behalf of Employees

Hang stockings with various charity names. Let employees put their names in the stockings of the charity they love most. Donate to the charity on their behalf. Do this in addition to or in lieu of Christmas bonuses for employees who opt for it.

11. Local Chefs Demo 

Hire a few local chefs to do a food demonstration in-house or during a private restaurant event. Employees can pick up tips on using locally-sourced, in-season ingredients for holiday meals.

12. High Tea Luncheon 

This only works for certain groups, but it’s a unique one, nonetheless. Have employees come dressed to the nines for a tea party. Instead of indulging in heavy holiday meals, a tea party offers healthier meal alternatives like cucumber sandwiches and light soups. 

13. Pajama or Holiday Wear Day

If your office is super low-key, let employees get comfy on the last day of work before the holidays. Pajamas or funky holiday costumes (flashing Santa hats, anyone?) create a festive atmosphere and let employees have some fun. Set a dress code prior to the dress-down day to eliminate any shocking outfits. Be sure to take a group photo and post your warm holiday wishes on Facebook.

14. Yoga Workshop 

Bring in a yoga instructor to lead an all-day workshop for your team. Mindfulness training, meditation, and yoga stretching can benefit workers who are stressed due to holiday pressures. 

15. Bell Ringing Helpers  

Salvation Army always needs volunteers at store posts to ring bells for collecting donations. Have your team sign up for various time slots to help a good cause. After everyone has finished their shift, treat your staff to a meal at a local restaurant that offers healthy meal options.

16. Multicultural Holiday Feast 

Not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Bring together your employees of different religious faiths and backgrounds with a feast featuring a variety of cultural dishes. This event allows employees to share viewpoints and unique cultural experiences. 

17. Storytime With Santa 

If your company has a large lobby that would nicely fit a winter wonderland scene, set up Santa’s shop. Set a time and day for employees to have pictures taken (pets and kids can be invited, too). Open it to the public for a small fee; then donate proceeds to a charity like Toys for Tots.

18. Ugly Sweater Day 

Have employees pull their ugliest sweaters from the back of their closets to wear on ugly sweater day. Let employees vote for their favorite, and give the winner a gift card. Download a free photobooth app or rent a photo booth machine with props for employees to use. Make ornaments out of the photos and hang them on the office tree. Or, add the photos to a private cloud account for employees to view.

19. Holiday Office Decorating Contest 

Let the competitive holiday games begin! Encourage employees to decorate their hallways, bulletin boards, cubicles, or offices. Make it an official day of decorating. Turn on the Christmas music and offer light refreshments or a catered lunch. Then, have customers vote on their favorite decor and present a gift card to the winners (first, second, and third places) at the end of December.  

20. Healthy Side Dish Swap 

Instead of a cookie exchange, host a healthy side dish swap. Create a sign-up sheet for employees to bring their favorite healthy side dishes in. Ask each employee who brings a dish to also include a recipe card so coworkers can snag the recipe if they love it.

21. Santa’s Workshop

Encourage employees to come dressed up to an office holiday party. Have someone volunteer to come as Santa to hand out candy canes and employee bonuses. If your office enjoys hosting family-friendly parties, set up a cookie bar for kids to decorate desserts. Add an ornament-making station for the crafty types. 

22. Gingerbread House Contest 

One of the best parts of Christmas is all the wonderful activities for children. Let your office staff feel like kids again with a gingerbread house contest. Create teams to design the best gingerbread house in under 15 minutes. 

23. DIY Tree Lighting Ceremony

If you have super festive employees who love the holidays, a DIY tree lighting ceremony might light them up. Assign a few employees to the task of Christmas tree setup. On the day you choose to light up your office Christmas tree, invite employees and their families to enjoy the lighting. Coloring activities, Christmas Bingo, and dance-offs will keep kids entertained and adults smiling. 

24. See a Holiday Show Together 

Take your staff to a holiday performance like The Nutcracker to get everyone in the spirit of winter magic. Or, for a cheaper alternative, watch a holiday movie together in theaters.

25. Creative Craft Day 

Bring crafty individuals together as a team to create holiday decor for the office. Have employees bring in a variety of recyclable supplies such as popsicle sticks, bottle caps, ribbon, sequins, and more. Supply bigger items like greenery for wreaths, hot glue guns, and scissors to piece together projects. Spend the rest of the day hanging the creations around the office. 

What nontraditional party ideas do you have? Share in the comments below! 

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