4 Ways to Throw an Office Holiday Party on a Shoestring


holiday-parties | Photo from ShutterstockAre lavish office parties passé? In a recent survey by The Creative Group, 34 percent of advertising and marketing executives said they spend $24 or less per person for year-end festivities. Sadly, 14 percent of respondents said they don’t hold staff parties at all.

It’s easy to guess why. Though many organizations are in better shape than they were a few years ago, budgets are often still limited for luxuries like an office holiday party. Besides, creative managers are busy meeting client deadlines, conducting annual reviews, and more. There’s a good chance the last thing on their minds is organizing a soiree.

But companies can benefit from putting in the effort. Here’s why:

  • A year-end get-together is a chance for employees to deepen relationships with colleagues, including freelancers and remote workers whom they may not see regularly.
  • It’s the ideal occasion for management to thank staff for their accomplishments and hard work.
  • Company events can help increase employee engagement and reduce turnover.

You don’t need a big budget to host an effective office holiday party. Here are four creative ideas to consider.

Work with what you have. Ditch the streamers and string lights and deck the halls with upcycled materials from around the office. Organize a potluck and encourage employees to bring their favorite holiday dishes. Hold a white elephant gift exchange. Or set up an area with paper samples and old magazines, and invite staff to a gift-wrapping party.

Take it outside. Plan a half-day field trip for the team, like going to a local lights display or museum. Live in an area where it snows? Have the team gear up for an afternoon of tubing, sledding and snowman building. You can even hold a competition to see who can make the most creative snow angel. End the day by gathering everyone together for hot cocoa, apple cider and light bites (by a toasty fire, if possible).

Give the gift of time. Everyone likes pleasant surprises, and no one has enough down time – especially during the holidays. Why not combine both by treating your staff to lunch and then closing shop early. Employees will appreciate the extra time to run errands or be with friends and family.

Volunteer together. Who says that the office holiday party has to include just your employees? In the season of giving, make it a point to serve others. Some ideas:

  • Put your team’s creativity to good use by painting a mural at a local school or charitable organization.
  • Assemble care packages for soldiers serving overseas.
  • Go to a pet shelter, take portraits of animals waiting to be adopted and write engaging copy for the organization’s website.
  • Check with groups like the Boys & Girls Clubs or local food banks for other ideas on how to give back to the community.

The extravagant office holiday party isn’t dead, but for many companies, resourcefulness trumps excess. You don’t have to spend a ton of money to make the season merry and meaningful for your staff.

caffeine_for_the_creative_team_ebook_cover_1The creative exercises in Caffeine for the Creative Team are meant to be matches to the kindling. They’re meant to initiate a shift in focus and prime the participants to begin to think in creative, alternative ways. They are a transition from the execution and management side of our profession to the creative side. Have fun with them, keep them light and encourage buy-in with them. The more open your team is during the exercise, the quicker they will remove the masks of responsibility to think and share openly.