Ah, the end of year office party. It’s a chance for everyone to unwind and let loose after giving it their all for 12 months. But the formula is so set that it can all become a bit samey. We won’t go into details, but the fact that Hollywood feels comfortable making a movie about it is pretty strong evidence that everyone knows what to expect.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Your end of year office party can step away from the usual glut of food, drinks, and bad music. Here’s how.
Let your employees give back
While there’s something to be said for giving your employees a chance to let their hair down, your average end-of-year party is a one-off event that’s unlikely to have much of a lasting impact. So why not do something meaningful, but which still allows your workforce to have fun?
Some companies have taken this approach and found it seriously rewarding. US technology solutions company Processing Point for instance gives each of its employees US$300-US$500 to go on a shopping spree. The catch? They have to spend that money on gifts for children, which are then distributed to local children’s charities. “I believe the employees feel a real sense of success by feeling the impact that the company can make in the community,” CEO Chad Buckmaster told Fastcompany.
There’s no reason why they can’t get a little in return for giving back either. The Boston office of digital advertising and technology company DigitasLBi sets up a giving tree containing tickets for gifts destined for children in need. The gifts are usually pretty small – socks, books, crayons – and cost as little as US$5.
Employees take the ticket, buy the gift and put it under the tree. In return, they get a raffle ticket. According to Fastcompany, past raffle prizes have included “a free dinner for two, gift certificates or a night at a hotel”.
Help them learn something
Sometimes the only thing people remember about an end-of-year party is how wild things got. Again, there’s a time and place for this, but wouldn’t it be great if your employees could take something a little more useful out of it?
At a company I previously worked for, one of the best year-end functions saw everyone learning to play, and competing in, a game of lawn bowls.
Another option would be to have teams take a cooking class. Look for something like Cape Town-based chef Matt Manning’s “One Ingredient” experience for something truly out of the ordinary.
That’s just one example though. There are plenty of other cool learning experiences you can incorporate into your year-end function from driving experiences to water sports and art. Even if you can’t find a company that has a dedicated corporate function as part of its services, chances are they’re willing to be flexible.
Have a potluck
If you’re a little short on resources, having a potluck may not be the worst option. The idea is simple: get every person in the company to bring in a dish that can be shared with the rest of the company. It doesn’t necessarily have to be something they’ve cooked themselves (although this may make them feel more engaged with the task), but it can be themed.
If, for instance, you’ve got an international or multicultural workforce, you could ask them to bring in foods that represent their country or their culture.
Taking this approach has the added benefit of getting your staff to learn things about each other that they might not otherwise know. By freeing up food costs, you can also spend on other areas, like gifts for your staff.
Give them an experience
So maybe your company gives its employees plenty of opportunities to give back, learning a new skill just feels like a royal pain at this time of the year, and you don’t have the space to host a potluck club.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t give them something they’ll remember. You could, for instance, book a murder mystery experience for your team. And if that sounds a little old-fashioned, there are more contemporary versions of the idea.
Alternatively, you could do something that lets them be tourists in their own cities, such as hiring an open-top bus, or doing a cycling tour.
Whichever of these options you choose, your employees are far more likely to remember it than another party with finger food, fancy drinks, and bad music.