How to throw a great holiday office party

Throwing a successful holiday office party is important for a lot of reasons: Overall morale, team building, and celebrating the season. Since planning a holiday party for employees is so important, we’ve put together tips for a great office party. Follow them … and have fun!

Interestingly, 30% of employers did not throw a holiday office party in 2015, an increase of 13% from 2012. Indeed, parties are expensive and take time and effort to plan, but it’s worth it for so many reasons.


Show gratitude

Money is a great way to say ‘thank you.’ However, a party is more personal. It makes workers feel valuable as employees and as people. They’re not just a number.

People also like receiving things they might not have splurged on themselves. For example, if you provide a fancy meal, employees can eat it guilt free. They don’t have to think about a more responsible way to spend the money while they’re trying to savor the cuisine.

Why throw a holiday office party?

Expressing gratitude is one reason of many:

  • Brand exposure if event is off-site
  • Celebrates the diversity of the season
  • Celebrates your business’s success
  • Boost morale
  • It’s a chance for employees to get to know each other
  • Promotes team building
  • Improved staff communication
  • Express employee appreciation
  • Parties are fun!

Tips for a great office party

You want your holiday office party to be memorable – in a good way! Planning can be daunting but, however, with a few tips, you can create a great experience for everyone.


Plan for it

Set up or organize reservations, caterers, and activities well in advance.

Make sure to:

  • Save the date: Survey employees on when they want to schedule the party
  • On a budget: Determine your budget
  • When and where: Decide which type of party most suits your place of employment and find a suitable location that can accommodate


Turn the office into a party

Consider saving on costs by bring caterers and DJs to you (if your facility can accommodate). It will also mean you can buy food and refreshments at wholesale price. 

Dress it up with holiday décor

If your holiday office party is located at the office, make sure to decorate. Transform the space. Cutouts, streamers, and balloons are perfect for changing the atmosphere.

Getting personal

Or, consider hosting the holiday office party in your home. It makes it more personal. 


Be inclusive

Encourage all staff to participate. Involve everyone, from staff, to interns, to volunteers. Invite all levels of staff. CEOs and janitors should mingle. Show your employees that everyone is valued for all the work they contribute. Socializing builds camaraderie and makes it easier for people to work together when returning to their desks.


Think outside the month

Your holiday office party doesn’t have to be in late December. Hold your event in early November or mid-January. You’ll typically pay less for room rentals, deejays, and catering. Most importantly, more employees will be able to attend – and feel less fatigued from all the other holiday parties they are attending. Yours will be refreshing rather than one more obligation during what for many is a stressful season.

It’s all in the timing

An evening party on a Thursday can make for workers who feel burned out Friday morning. Consider a Friday evening party that kicks-off as soon as the work day ends – a great way to begin the weekend!

During the day

Or consider scheduling the holiday office party during business hours (of course, “refreshments” may not be an option). With many families travelling during the holidays, scheduling the event during the workweek will ensure more employees can attend. After all, the more the merrier!

Plus, employees won’t have to commute or line up a babysitter.


On a theme

Assign a fun theme to your holiday office party! Have an optional dress code for prizes. Use props and signage to jazz it up. Find food that ties-in to the theme as well.

It’s all about the food

If you provide excellent food, they will come!

Everyone eats and people love things that are free, particularly food. Plus, sharing food or a meal is a great bonding experience. Just make sure to ask about food allergies or preferences in advance to accommodate employees with special food needs. For example, ask if your employees are allergic to tree nuts, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, vegetarian, vegan, kosher, or anything else.

A cookie decorating station or a waffle bar

This gets people to mingle because they spend more time getting food instead of huddling together at a table with colleagues they already know. It also gives people something to talk about.

The sound of music

Music can also be a topic of conversation in case employees who don’t know each other very well run out of things to say. While you want to change the atmosphere, make sure the songs are office appropriate so you don’t offend anyone. Taking a survey of a few songs each employee would like to hear ahead of time provides a good snap shot of the music that could be deemed appropriate.

Take a field trip

Plan ice-skating in the afternoon followed by drinks and hors d’oeuvres afterwards in the evening. It allows employees to take part in one or both activities. Employees with young families can go home having participated, but the party can continue on. 

Give back to the community

Volunteer at a soup kitchen or other good cause together. Not necessarily a party, but the team building and gratification that comes from events such as this is invaluable – also, it’s great for brand exposure. 


Take photos so employees can look back at the memories. Post them on a bulletin board later. After all, we spend a lot of time at work, so the office, or whatever setting in which you work, is a big part of our lives. 

Don’t discuss work

Meetings are for business – not parties! The holiday office party is a time to celebrate, relax, share funny stories, and talk about all things un-work-related. Have a jar that employees have to place a dollar in if they are caught discussing work and use that for a future pizza party – or possibly helping to fund next year’s event.

Say ‘thank you’

At the party, give each staff member some form of a personal “Thank You.” Whether it’s a gift, gift card, cash, handwritten note, or a combination of these, the important thing is for you to communicate that each person is a valued member of your team.


Fun activities are also great for encouraging conversation and team building. Fun can have spill-off benefits!

Consider these:

  • Costume contest
  • Karaoke
  • In-office spa treatments
  • Human chess
  • Simon Says
  • Family Feud
  • Old-school video games projected on a screen
  • Photo booth

Party favors and prizes

Promotional items make for great gift giveaways. Hand a bag out to everyone. Have employees spin a wheel. Or, organize a drawing. No matter how you choose to do it, here are some ideas that say “Thank You.”

  • Coasters
  • Personalized mouse pads
  • Custom T-shirts to commemorate the occasion (this is a great idea for branding if party is off-site, say at a restaurant)
  • Custom sweatshirts (It is winter, after all. Bonus points if you make it “ugly sweater” worthy.)
  • Key chains
  • Kristin & Company Candles
  • Coffee mugs with personalized pictures
  • Tote bags
  • Tumblers
  • Water bottles

Let’s get planning!

T.R. McTaggart provides all the help and expertise you will need to throw a great holiday office party!

If you’re in need of party favors, prizes, or apparel to commemorate the party, call us at (800) 733-0983 or Contact Us so we can support you in planning a spectacular party! Our staff has years of expertise in providing promotional items and custom apparel fit for any holiday office party!

Happy holidays from all of us at T.R. McTaggart! May you have a festive – and fashionable – holiday season.