The 5 Ws of Your Company’s Holiday Party

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The 5 Ws of Your Company’s Holiday Party

Every fall ERC surveys Northeast Ohio organizations about a critical part of their workplace practices—their holiday party. Without fail this topic is hugely popular, typically garnering one the largest pools of responses we receive all year.

Whatever the reason may be (Really excited for the holidays? Looking for new creative ideas to implement this year? Tired of being surveyed about more serious issues like comp and benefits and ready for something lighter?) 2015 was no exception. So with the Thanksgiving holiday already in the books and the 24/7 Christmas music radio station playing over your office’s PA system, let’s take a look at what company holiday parties are looking like here in Northeast Ohio this holiday season.

1. Who is invited?

Hosting a holiday party can be costly and limiting the number of invitees is probably the most effective and easiest way to keep expenses down.

As a result it is perhaps not surprising that about half (53%) of employers only invite employees to the holiday party.

However, a somewhat smaller, but growing number of organizations are choosing to include family members and/or significant others of employees by inviting them to the holiday party as well. Particularly if the party is held in evening hours, allowing employees to bring along their family members can be a nice gesture. If the budget allows, this can provide an additional opportunity for employees to connect while also ensuring that they don’t lose out on cherished “family time” at a work function outside of normal business hours.

2. What is provided?

Since the main event at most holiday parties is probably the food, 62% of employers have their holiday party catered. A full listing of the caterers (and venues) being used in 2015 can be found in Appendix B of the 2015 ERC Holiday Practices Survey. Perhaps the most popular, and controversial, question in the survey is related to whether or not employers choose to serve alcohol at their holiday party.

In 2015 just under half (43%) of employers are planning to provide alcohol at their holiday party, a percentage that has remained steady year over year in this survey. Among these employers that provide alcohol at their holiday party, 56% limit the alcohol consumed in some way, a number that has been increasing over time.

Most commonly employers use drink tickets to limit the number of alcoholic drinks consumed, while others rely on less formal methods such as pre-party reminders about potential disciplinary actions or having the bartender (or other staff) cut off those that over indulge.

3. Where is the party happening?

With holiday party budgets increasing slowly but steadily in the post-recession era, employers have also been moving their parties off-site to restaurants, hotels, etc. Some employers select venues that incorporate some sort of recreational activity or entertainment into the party as well.

About one-third (36%) of employers still host their holiday party on company premises.

Another less common option is to have a staff member host the party at his or her home. While this is likely only a viable option for smaller employers or for gatherings specific to smaller groups of employees such as individual departments, 7% of this year’s survey sample chose this option as their venue.

4. When is the party happening?

Most (56%) of the holiday parties in 2015 are happening either in the 2nd or 3rd week of December.

This is consistent with the timing seen in years past. If the party is on a weekday (except Friday), lunchtime remains the most common timeframe, but a slight trend towards Friday or Saturday evening parties does suggest that these later parties are growing in popularity. Don’t forget about your second or third shift employees either—a number of organizations host holiday parties at their corresponding “lunch hour” to be sure everyone is treated equally.

5. Why is the party happening?

Apart from being generally festive, holiday parties can be a great opportunity to show appreciation to your employees for their hard work throughout the year. In addition to the free food (and who doesn’t love free food?!) some employers provide entertainment during the party (21%) or raffle off larger ticket “gifts” such as electronics or larger sums of cash to add to the festivities.

And of course, at most organizations the holiday party only happens because of the hard work that HR puts into planning it—HR is in charge of planning the party at 62% of employers!

Happy Holidays from all of us at ERC!

View ERC's Holiday Practices and Paid Holiday Survey Results

These surveys report on which holidays Northeast Ohio organizations plan to observe as well as holiday parties, gift giving, and more ideas for the holiday season.

View the Results