What is an office party?
An office party is a celebration or social event for everyone at a company, in a department or on a team, usually paid for and organized by the company. It’s a way for employees to have fun, unwind, build connections and get to know each other on a more personal level.
The most common type of work party is the end-of-year holiday party, but office parties can be held any time of year to boost employee morale, engagement and satisfaction, and show your appreciation.
Office parties should fit within your budget and align with your company values, culture and objectives.
Benefits of holding office parties
While office parties may seem like an unnecessary (and sometimes expensive) perk, group celebrations often bring real business benefits. Here are a few of the top benefits of work parties:
- Strengthens team bonds: When employees have the chance to talk about things other than work, they get to know each other on a different level which can help build trust.
- Increases employee engagement and morale: Office parties offer employees a chance to relax and unwind, which can boost productivity when it’s time to go back to work.
- Provides networking opportunities: While your office party shouldn’t include shop talk, giving employees the chance to mingle with each other in a casual setting can spark new friendships and connections that could lead to stronger collaboration in the office. Work parties can also help employees build rapport with the management team away from the pressures of the office environment.
- Makes employees feel appreciated: Employees who are recognized, valued and rewarded for their achievements often feel a sense of loyalty to their employer and are more likely to stay at companies longer.
Tips for a fantastic work party
An office party doesn’t have to be costly or elaborate. Even planning the event can be fun if you approach it with the right attitude. Here are some tips to consider when planning a staff party:
1. Plan in advance
While an impromptu lunch or celebration is a wonderful idea, most office parties are better when planned in advance. This makes the event a lot less stressful for those tasked with gathering supplies and food, as well as convenient for those with busy calendars or who travel for business.
Ask your employees for input on what they’d like in an office party. After all, staff parties are for your employees and they’ll be more likely to participate and have fun when the theme, food, games, activities and prizes are something they enjoy. To build up excitement for the party, ask enthusiastic employees to help with planning and suggesting games, activities, venues and themes, or create an office party planning committee.
2. Encourage everyone to join
Consider scheduling work parties during work hours so everyone can be there, if possible. This ensures that you aren’t asking employees to take time away from their busy personal lives, and shows appreciation for your employees. End-of-year holiday parties, however, often take place after work hours, but this is up to you.
Additionally, think about whether or not you’ll allow your employees to invite a plus-one. For more formal holiday office parties, plus-ones are traditionally invited. However, if your office party is during work hours and/or at the office, you may want to limit the party to employees only.
3. Add a game or activity
Scavenger hunts, icebreakers, board game marathons, photobooths, karaoke, trivia, charades and similar team-building activities help people relax, do something other than make small talk, and enjoy themselves. Just be sure that games are fun, low pressure and that everyone can participate, regardless of age or physical abilities.
Many games can be modified for office parties — for example, “Trivial Pursuit,” “Jeopardy,” or “Name That Tune.” Guessing games are also fun. Put names of famous people on post it notes and distribute them, having each player wear a post-it on their forehead without looking at the name. The objective is to get clues from each person in the room until the person guesses their famous person. This party game can get people talking to one another and working together.
Or, host an award show, showcasing your employees’ achievements. If your party game involves groups, mix teams up so employees from different departments can get to know one another.
4. Make it a themed party
Giving your office party a themes can help break the ice. Favorite music eras, tiki night, carnival themes or “ugly holiday sweater” days can get employees into a social, light-hearted mood. Having something to talk about right away alleviates some of the awkwardness that might come with work parties, takes the focus off work and makes socializing easier.
Other staff party themes to try include:
- Throwback (e.g., ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘90s)
- Black tie
- Winter wonderland
- Movie night
5. Throw in a prize or a few
Everyone loves a raffle, and prizes don’t have to be elaborate. For example, gift cards for local restaurants or online shopping outlets are always appreciated and can help raise festivity levels. Other prize ideas include: a bonus day off, company swag, tech gadgets, a charitable donation on their behalf, etc.
6. Serve really good food
Serving food is another great way to make work parties fun, especially since studies show that eating triggers an endorphin release in the brain. Cater, order take out, plan a potluck or if your party is virtual, try giving your employees a food delivery voucher. Make sure you have plenty of options for everyone’s dietary choices (e.g., vegetarian, dairy-free) so everyone can participate.
7. Get out of the office
Another way to make your office party successful is by planning activities that employees will enjoy doing, instead of forcing them to do something they don’t want to do. Getting out of the office is one way to boost engagement levels and increase the chances that everyone will enjoy themselves. A ballgame, theater event, trip to an amusement park or tour of a local attraction can invigorate work relationships and energize teams.
8. Avoid talking about work
There’s nothing that can ruin a good party faster than talking shop in the middle of an event planned to give everyone a break from work. You can bring up encouraging words about the progress of a project, but avoid turning the get together into a business meeting.
9. Know your HR policy
It’s important to know, understand and follow your HR policies regarding alcohol and social events. Don’t forget that just because parties are fun, you and your employees will find the event a lot more enjoyable when professionalism is maintained. Prior to the party, remind employees of proper office party etiquette (e.g., avoid excessive drinking, don’t bring extra guests).
Read more: How to Motivate Your Employees
Office party ideas to try
If you’re ready to throw a party for your staff, here are eight excellent office party ideas to try.
Virtual company party ideas
During COVID-19, staff parties are going virtual. But just because parties have to take place through a screen doesn’t mean they can’t be fun, engaging and unique. Here are a few virtual office party ideas to try:
- Virtual tastings: From tea to wine to cheese, virtual tasting events can be a creative way to engage your team from home. Tasting items are typically sent to employees ahead of time and an expert guides the team through the tasting via video chat.
- Online crafting or cooking party: In lieu of an in-person holiday party, you could try sending each of your employees crafting supplies or recipe ingredients and make or cook something together on camera. From building gingerbread houses to crafting ornaments to baking a pie, making something together can be a great way for teams to get to know each other (and engage in some friendly competition).
- Virtual scavenger hunt: In this fast-paced virtual game, partygoers are tasked with finding specific items around their house and presenting them on camera to their coworkers (e.g., favorite mug, pet selfie, high school yearbook, newspaper).
Morning coffee and breakfast
This office party idea can be affordable, quick and easy. Local coffee shops often offer healthy breakfasts and deals for businesses in their neighborhood. Get your team’s day started with a breakfast of fresh fruit, smoothies, nutritious juices and high-quality coffee.
A potluck gets everyone involved and keeps costs down. Depending on the size of your staff, make sure to provide at least one main dish and dessert, along with refreshments and paper products. Potlucks are a wonderful way to celebrate diversity, enable employees to show off their culinary or baking skills and get them talking about their own interests. Kick off the spring with a “picnic” theme or the holidays with a “traditional foods” celebration.
Food truck rally
Hire a few food trucks and host an outdoor picnic with music. Make sure that trucks have options for everyone’s dietary preferences. Outdoor events are a wonderful way to celebrate a company’s accomplishments, welcome the summer or just enjoy each other’s company in a laid back setting.
Classic (or unconventional) holiday party
A staple at many companies, annual office holiday parties are a great way to end the year with a bang and show your employees that you appreciate all of the hard work they did throughout the year. From hot chocolate to Secret Santa to ugly sweaters, holiday parties can be a great mood booster and team bonding event.
Other holiday party ideas for work (popular and lesser-known) include:
- Pi Day — March 14th
- Saint Patrick’s Day — March 17th
- Earth Day — April 22nd
- Cinco de Mayo — May 5th
- National Doughnut Day (first Friday of June)
- International Talk Like a Pirate Day — September 19th
- Halloween — October 31st
Office awards ceremony
A great way to recognize employees for their individual accomplishments and top strengths, an office awards ceremony party involves giving out awards (e.g., trophies, certificates) for superlatives like most creative, friendliest, best at meeting tight deadlines and best cubicle decorations.
Present awards at a fancy awards dinner and try making the dress code black tie to get everyone in the spirit.
Final thoughts on office parties
Office parties are a great way to give employees something to look forward to and show your appreciation of their hard work. Creating a low-stress and fun environment is a great way to keep employees happy and increase motivation throughout the office.
There’s no reason you can’t make parties affordable, efficient and fun for everyone. By doing some planning and research, you can continue to come up with new and exciting events that won’t cost the company too much time or resources. A little bit of fun can go a long way toward making employees happy and building a better, more successful company.