In this season of wonder and cheer, there’s an ailment lurking around the offices of every company. No, it’s not the cold, flu or even the holiday blues. It’s holiday staff party remorse. Chances are you just celebrated—or are about to celebrate—the season with your staff. And, chances are, you either played it safe and boring or you’ll pay the price of creating an unforgettable experience. We asked a diverse group of experts for their opinions on how to spurge while playing it safe.
Think Outside the Box and Plan Ahead
Sarah Miller, designer, Caplan Miller Events recommends starting with a fresh, new theme.
“So many companies feel like they have to stick with the same buffet dinner, band and casino games, because it has worked in the past,” Miller says. “Don’t be afraid to mix things up a bit. Try theming your party each year to add excitement.”
But, she adds, plan it now—an entire year in advance—in order to nab the best opportunities. “Finding the perfect space can be tricky. We recommend booking your holiday party venue one year out, especially for parties over 350 people, to ensure you get the location you want,” she adds.
Be Smart and Safe
Miller points out that one of the biggest concerns can be the alcohol factor. But even planners have a fix for that, too. “Get everyone home safely and limit liability by offering complimentary cab service at the end of the party,” she offers.
Amy Beckstead, partner, Beckstead Terry PLLC, agrees that providing free cab rides home is a great idea. She adds that alcohol can lead to other liabilities as well.
“Holiday parties are an excellent way for employees to bond—and for the company culture to shine,” says Beckstead. “The trick is ensuring individuals are not over-indulging or making decisions they will regret in the morning.”
In fact, Beckstead points out, holiday parties can bring out other regrettable behavior, whether alcohol is served or not. Her caution: Be prepared to take the fun seriously.
“With respect to harassment claims, there is no rule that ‘what happens at the holiday party, stays at the holiday party,’” she explains. “If someone complains about another individual’s behavior, this needs to be treated like any other harassment investigation: Promptly investigate and take action.”
Snag Some Hidden Cost Savings
Now here’s a cost-saving idea few staff party planners know: Uncle Sam doesn’t necessarily need to be invited. Follow a few guidelines and your staff party could be 100 percent tax deductible, according to Steven Bankler, CPA.
“Typical holiday parties are 50 percent tax deductible. However, a few creative changes can make yours completely tax deductible,” says Bankler.
These changes, he points out, include having the party on business premises, keeping clients and contractors separate from the main event, conducting some sort of business before, during or after the event (employee appreciation awards would be a great idea), and keeping costs within reasonable limits. For more ideas on throwing a staff party tax free, visit Bankler’s blog post on the subject.
So, who’s ready to party? Share with us your own top tips for holiday staff party success. We’d love to hear from you!
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