Q: We just had our annual holiday party. It was not inexpensive. It was also nothing special and it got me to thinking there must be something different or better. Do you have any suggestions?

Yvonne H, New Milford, CT

A: I can empathize. I once worked at a law firm that threw a nice holiday party every year but didn’t decrease the amount of hours we were required to bill that month to account for the time we would be at the party. Many of us ended up going back
to the office after the party was over and working for an extra two hours just to stay even. We were not happy campers.

So rather than another holiday party, consider earmarking the holiday party money in more creative ways. For instance, one thing that has caught on recently, instead of the holiday party, is the holiday reward. Rewarding employees this time of year can achieve the same goodwill that a party can and has the added bonus of motivating employees. There are many different things that a small business owner can do to reward employees within the holiday spirit:

  • Give employees time off. Give your employees an extra, paid day or two off. This allows them to go shopping, send off packages, and handle all of the other tasks we have this time of year. Because we are all so busy right now, free time around the holidays is especially valuable and appreciated. And even if your business is busy this time of year, juggling schedules and hiring some part time help can create the space to reward your best employees. They will be grateful all year long.
  • Similarly, you can give employees who want it a day off to do charitable work.
  • To get into the spirit of giving, what about taking everyone to a local children’s hospital or retirement home where they can volunteer their time for half a day?
  • Create a suggestion box. The employee who makes the best suggestion for improving the business can, for instance, win a nice dinner for two, as well as the opportunity to have their improvement implemented.
  • Write letters to your employees’ families. Tell a husband or wife how special their mate is.  How valuable they are. How much they mean to your business. This creates goodwill all the way around.
  • Rather than throwing a party for the employees, consider throwing one for their children.
  • Hire a massage therapist to visit your office for an afternoon.
  • Create a package wrapping station. Leave wrapping paper, ribbon, tape, scissors, and cards in the break room so that your staff can wrap their presents after doing some lunchtime shopping.

Finally, consider offering employees a flex-time holiday plan. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Maybe Martin Luther King Day or Memorial Day is more important to some employees. So, at the beginning of the year, post a list of every possible holiday – everything from Saint Patrick’s Day to Rosh Hashanah. Then, allow your staff to pick any 11 (which is the typical amount of holiday time in most workplaces.)

We all get stuck in ruts. The annual holiday party can be another one. But with some creative thinking, the holidays can be a time to bring everyone together and reward your staff for a job well done.

Today’s Tip:
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes one to start a business. No entrepreneur does it alone. Usually there is a supportive spouse in the wings.

In my family, my dad started a successful chain of carpet stores. My sweet mom helped him every step of the way. This holiday season, let’s all make sure that our spouses know how much we appreciate their support.

Alternatives to The Typical Holiday Party

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