the office holiday party comeback

After two years of COVID-related disruptions to office culture, expect 2022 to be different

 

In the corporate world, the term B.C. may as well stand for Before COVID. March 2020 and the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic brought once-in-a-lifetime disruptions to office culture, and office occupancy rates remain far below their pre-pandemic peaks. However, 2022 has brought a slow but steady return to at least hybrid office environments, and it seems more likely that a return to a “more” normal office culture is poised to continue over the coming years.


However, for CEOs and managers who are trying out a variety of creative ideas to try and entice their employees back into the office for more days each week, there may be a more traditional option for building back office culture. The office holiday party has always been an important team-building and employee retention strategy in any major corporation, but many companies only dabbled with traditional office holiday party ideas last year as the Omicron wave kept case counts high around the world.


So what can employees and employers alike expect from what is shaping to be a blow-out office holiday party season in 2022? What office holiday party ideas are worth thinking about right now if you are in charge of planning your company’s holiday gathering? And what makes this year different than years before when it comes to the importance of the office holiday party for fostering a positive office culture? Let’s dive into some of the biggest questions here.


Why is 2022 shaping up to be such a big year for the office holiday party?

 

Like many other things in a post-pandemic world, one of the biggest reasons to expect a blockbuster office holiday party season is pent-up demand. Unlike goods, services, or more casual events, there is demand from multiple arenas for office holiday parties this year:


  • Managers and CEOs striving to return to a more normal pre-pandemic work culture see an office holiday party as the ultimate way to entice the entire staff to return, even for a day – potentially opening doors for more in-office returns next year.
  • Long-time employees who haven’t been working alongside their entire team since March 2020 thanks to hybrid and remote options can look forward to a chance to reconnect, even if other team members are permanently remote.
  • New employees who have never met some (or many) of their co-workers in person can have a chance to network and mingle for the first time.

Throw in the fact that office holiday parties (unlike retreats, conventions, or other more formal events) offer a relaxed and celebratory environment by nature, and it’s the perfect storm of demand and opportunity. The office holiday party has been a tradition in the corporate world for decades for these reasons, and now the chance to regain some of the pre-pandemic magic offers a reason for anticipation and excitement.


What might be different about office holiday parties this year?

 

While some holiday party planners may simply try to re-use what worked before the pandemic, we expect a number of big changes in holiday party event management. This is due not only to the still-changing landscape of the office environment in 2022, but also the ever-evolving world of event management platforms and technology that offer new (and creative) planning ideas for holiday party hosts. These include:



iPhone illustration of holiday party email invitation


Why is it important for employers and managers to get creative with their holiday party plans this season?

 

In an environment where staffing challenges remain a major concern in a broad variety of industries, the office holiday party offers a major opportunity to increase employee retention and help employees feel valued without major financial commitments. While remote and hybrid options are likely here to stay, especially in industries like tech or content creation, there are some real benefits to encouraging employees to become more connected with the in-person office environment, such as:


  • Better collaboration and teamwork when working together in the office, as opposed to via virtual meetings.
  • Increased productivity. While many employees cite better mental health as a result of remote work, a variety of sources have found that productivity is still maximized the best when employees feel comfortable returning to and working from a home office.
  • Better culture. When employees feel like they are truly a part of something, beyond email threads or Slack channels, people tend to pull their load better, making the entire team more productive.

While these benefits may seem obvious to many employers, a well-planned and creative office holiday party can achieve them all in a single occasion. This means it’s worth considering allocating more of a budget to your office holiday party planning, brainstorming some new ideas, or soliciting employee feedback to crowdsource a holiday party that people will enjoy – and that will lead to some measurable benefits over the coming year in terms of employee happiness and productivity.


So what steps should party planners start taking now to meet the moment?

 

While the calendar may have just turned to October, the holiday party season is much closer than you think. To help your company or business get the most out of your office holiday party this year, you should get started on a few things right away:


  • Start convening a team or delegating individuals to take the lead on finding a venue, booking vendors, ordering gifts, and other event management concerns.
  • Send out your holiday party invitations as early as possible. You’ll want to claim that date on as many employee calendars as possible to encourage as much participation as possible.
  • Consider sending out a mass email or survey to solicit employee feedback and see what your teams would like to see at this year’s event. You can better plan your holiday party to fit expectations and build excitement with their input.
  • Read up on what other holiday party planners are thinking to steal some good ideas for yourself.

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