The holiday office party has become a bit of a cliché, used as fodder for comedy in films and TV shows like The Office and Arrested Development. The office party is often portrayed as an awkward workplace obligation that no one really wants to attend.
But there are reasons why this tradition persists--many of them rooted in the sociological benefits of group celebration.
When we come together to celebrate joint achievements, or simply to celebrate our relationships with one another, we become more unified and strengthen our bonds. We reduce stress and increase levels of contentment. We break up the monotony of our daily lives with something new and fun, which can promote motivation and creativity.
That said, it's very possible to throw an awful holiday office party that no one wants to be at. Here are 4 simple ways to make your company's celebration a meaningful and enjoyable event for everyone:
1. Be sure to celebrate your employees--but keep it short.
The holiday season is a perfect time to thank colleagues and employees, and acknowledge their hard work and accomplishments. This means quite a bit: one study found that 80 percent of workers who quit their jobs cited being underappreciated as one of the main reasons. Other research has found that showing appreciation can engage employees more than promotions or salary increases.
The best, most effective appreciation speeches are genuine, to the point--and brief. Keep your remarks to a few minutes, and make every word count.
2. Have great food.
Being generous with your employees through great food is another excellent way of showing appreciation. Eating releases endorphins in our brains that make us feel good.
In addition, feasting together as humans goes back millennia and serves a critical sociological purpose. According to an article in Scientific American, dinner parties "gather our allies (both family and friends) and renew our social obligations to each other." Just the simple act of eating together strengthens our bonds and commitment to one another.
3. Provide stress-relieving activities.
If there is tension between co-workers or high levels of stress in the office, the company holiday party could be a seriously uncomfortable affair. But simple activities can help break the ice, such as playing music, providing board games, dancing, karaoke, or sharing stories.
The point is not to force people to do things they don't want to do, but to give them a chance to release stress and connect with each other. Research has shown that people who discuss positive events or laugh together grow closer to one another. And physical activity--even something as low-key as playing darts--is known to reduce stress and elevate mood.
4. Make celebration a regular part of work.
While holiday parties are great, they shouldn't be the only event to celebrate your team's achievements. Praise that is frequent and more immediate has a huge impact on worker morale, increasing productivity by as much as 42 percent. Expressing gratitude to one another strengthens bonds, motivation, and loyalty.
Find reasons to throw parties or do fun activities together at other times of the year. Make space in your team meetings to acknowledge and affirm one another. Establish ongoing processes for recognizing the contributions of employees.
Creating a culture of celebration in your organization is a powerful way to build a strong, committed, and high-performing team. And it will help make your holiday party a more meaningful event, rather than a random one-off affair, that is consistent with who you are as an organization.