Holiday season is here and that means your office party is right around the corner. With many businesses also celebrating Halloween and Thanksgiving, it’s a good time to set some ground rules for holiday appropriate behavior—and the one thing that tends to lead to regrettable behavior is alcohol. Office happy hours are common, but is it wise to serve alcohol at official company events? Two members of our HR team weigh in with some advice:
Amy McGeorge, Managing Partner
It’s great if you can have a holiday party with “cheer,” but it requires some extra diligence from the management team to ensure that things are balanced. I love it when management teams agree that they will keep their own drinking to a minimum and keep an eye out for problems. To avoid embarrassment, HR can be “on the spot” to help redirect anyone whose celebrations are getting out of hand. Other good practices include hiring a bartender with the necessary insurance to minimize liability. Parties at management homes are always an employee favorite, so make sure that the bartender’s insurance AND the company’s insurance are appropriate to cover the host from any liability. Here are a few other good practices to adopt:
• Provide drink tickets to keep the volume of drinking under control
• Have designated drivers available for anyone who needs them
• Keep the party lively and have some sort of entertainment to keep guests occupied—at our annual party, we plan white elephant swaps, award superlatives, and review favorite quotes from our year-round “Heckle Jar”…these distractions are a lot of fun for everyone
Jeremy Smith, HR Consultant & SHRM-CP
Serving alcohol at company sponsored events is completely acceptable so long as leadership genuinely understands their employees and believes they will be able to exercise good judgement to remain self-aware, professional, and responsible. If you employ a lot of younger employees, particularly millennials, they may need a little guidance since they are new to the business world and may need coaching on what is and is not appropriate. We know alcohol lowers our inhibitions, so it's a good idea to remind employees about the importance of having a "filter." Here are a few additional tips that will promote both cheer and safety at your next holiday party:
• Don’t make alcohol the focus of the event
• Avoid serving hard liquor and mixed drinks; instead, offer a select beer and wine list
• Hire a professional bartender and never allow employees to serve coworkers
• Have a designated person responsible for evaluating people when they leave to determine if a company sponsored taxi/uber is needed
An office holiday party gives employees a chance to relax and have fun, and alcohol can be a festive addition. However, without proper planning and safeguards, management may need to call on Dwight Schrute to put out a “fire” or two… Happy Holidays!
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