The holiday season is a time for people to connect, and one way companies bring their employees together is by hosting a party. But how can we use this event to also support employee well-being? Here are 5 things to consider.

Kristin Bower is a Leadership and Workplace Consultant with MyWorkplaceHealth and an award-winning Diversity and Inclusion expert. With over 20-years of experience, she is an outspoken advocate for deeper awareness of mental health issues and is committed to helping organizations foster psychologically safe and healthy workplaces.

The holiday season is a time for people to connect, and strong social connections have been shown to improve overall mental health and wellbeing. One of the ways that businesses can create connections among employees is with the holiday party.

In the workplace, an annual holiday party or gathering is an opportunity for employers to say thank you to their employees for all that has been accomplished over the year. For employees, it’s a chance to have some fun and celebrate the season with colleagues.

But planning the holiday party can also present some challenges: Should you serve alcohol? How do you keep the costs down? How can we plan a party that employees will want to come to?

But here’s another important question you might not be asking: How can we use the holiday event to support employee wellbeing?

Here are some things to consider making your holiday gathering one that employees get excited about:

  1. Engage Your Employees in the Planning. Ask your employees how they would like to celebrate the holiday season. Would they like a team dinner after work one evening or would they prefer an afternoon spent volunteering in the community? You are more likely to plan an event that employees will find meaningful and fun if you engage employees in the planning process.
  2. Make it Inclusive. Ensuring that different employee viewpoints are heard also means your event will end up being more inclusive. While extroverts might love a noisy restaurant full of people, introverts might prefer a quieter event held at someone’s home. Is your location accessible to all? Ensuring that an employee with a disability is involved with the planning can help apply an accessibility lens to the plans. Do you most of your employees have families? Perhaps an afternoon event where partners and children are welcome will be a better fit than an evening party that means your employees will have the financial burden of paying for childcare.
  3. Make it Voluntary. The quickest way to squeeze the fun out of a workplace holiday party is to make it mandatory. Make sure employees know they’re invited and that they can opt out if they need to. Those who don’t celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah or who may be struggling with things in their personal life, might not want to participate.
  4. Be Responsible. Consider the type of event you will be hosting and if serving alcohol is appropriate. If you do decide to provide alcohol to your employees limit the quantity or times it’s served as well as provide some fun and delicious non-alcoholic options. It’s important to note that some people struggle silently with addiction, so don’t make alcohol the focus of your event while may result in unintentionally excluding employees.
  5. Create Connection. Create opportunities for employees to get to know someone new or to build deeper connections. Hosting a potluck during business hours? Ask employees to bring their favorite holiday dish. Get them to share one thing they’re grateful for. Studies have shown that a gratitude practice can positively impact a person’s mood. Incorporate that practice throughout the coming year during team events.

Finally, consider this: the holidays can be a difficult time for people. Busy social calendars, big shopping lists and financial strains can all add up. Add to that the fact that some of your employees may be missing loved ones or dealing with illness. Allowing employees to navigate the holiday season in a way that is meaningful to them, and showing your gratitude, kindness and empathy, could be the best gift of all that an employer can give.

To learn more about the Diversity and Inclusion training Kristen offers or about other MyWorkplaceHealth service offerings, get in touch!