How to Throw an Office Party--And Stay Sober

Last Updated Oct 11, 2011 11:32 AM EDT

I know. You're barely done getting the sand out from between your toes, and now you're reading about holiday parties? But in some cities, the time to plan your holiday bash-if you plan to have one-is now, as in-demand dates at even second-tier venues can get booked up frighteningly fast.

Dawn Bryan, the author of The Art and Etiquette of Gift-Giving and the founder of Qualipedia.com, offers up a list of tips on how to show your appreciation to your staff without breaking the bank.

  1. Have your party in January. If your company is crazy-busy in the lead-up to the holiday season, why not just have the party in January, when everyone can relax? People will be more appreciative of a party in January, which tends to be comparatively dreary and unscheduled. And January is usually cheaper, too.
  2. Have the party during the day. If you have your party during business hours, everyone gets a little time off, and no one will have to worry about rearranging their social schedules or finding a babysitter so they can attend. Why not show your appreciation with a brunch or a lunch? And who ever objected to being served breakfast?
  3. Try a new venue. It doesn't have to be a bar or a restaurant or the dreaded "event space." Go bowling. Go to the circus. Buy tickets to a sports event, if that's what your team likes. Go river rafting (if you live somewhere warm). Go to an amusement park. Do something, you know, fun.
  4. Throw a party with another company. Maybe there's another company in your building. You see the employees in the cafeteria, but do you really know them? Or maybe you work closely with another company during the year. Throw the party together. Everyone will get to meet new people, and you may even make some interesting business connections.
  5. Skip the party, but still show your appreciation. Maybe you can give everyone an extra vacation day next year, or a cash bonus. Maybe you can give everyone a gift card and time off to go shopping. Just make sure to accompany any of these with a handwritten note of thanks.
  6. Give back. Maybe your team would rather do something good for the community than have one too many beers in front of the boss. Give people time off to volunteer in a soup kitchen, organize a food drive, or deliver presents to needy kids. After all, there are lots of ways to celebrate the holidays.
The elephant in the room
If you do attend a holiday party, watch what you drink. If that sounds like advice fit only for a teenager, think again. New research from the University of Birmingham shows that people actually get drunk more quickly in unfamiliar environments than in their regular boozy hangouts. The researchers say that when you drink regularly in the same place, with the same people, your brain gets used to it and builds in a few safeguards to keep you from going overboard. When you drink in a new place, with new people (i.e., at the holiday party, with your staff), your brain tends to get caught off-guard. And the results are predictable.

Is your company going to throw a holiday party this year? Should they?

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Kimberly Weisul is a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant. Follow her on twitter at www.twitter.com/weisul.
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    Kimberly Weisul is the co-founder of One Thing New, the free email newsletter for smart, busy women. She was previously Senior Editor at BusinessWeek, responsible for all coverage of entrepreneurship and for launching BusinessWeek SmallBiz, a bimonthly magazine. She is also a freelance writer, editor and editorial consultant.