Taylor Tobin
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If you work in an office, the arrival of December can only mean one thing: Holiday Work Party Season is about to commence. Whether your attitude about these gatherings is totally gung-holiday or a little more Grinch-like, end-of-year office parties are a total inevitability. However, if you don’t celebrate Christmas or otherwise have difficulty attending your workplace’s celebration, these events can cause discomfort and alienation that’s very much at odds with the spirit of the season. 

In order to keep all employees feeling festive and excited to attend, we suggest these 5 steps toward party inclusivity.

1. Keep decor fun and timely, but not exclusive to one holiday.

Before anyone gets worried that we’re waging a “War on Christmas” here, we’ll start by saying that, in most offices, it’s completely fine to have a Christmas tree or a wreath posted in the workspace. However, unless you work for a specifically-Christian organization, there’s no reason why you can’t also set up a menorah. These particular items aside, the rest of the office holiday decor should be festive, but not in an exclusionary way. Think metallic golds and silvers, beaded garlands, twinkle lights, winter fruit baskets, and other creative spins on a seasonal aesthetic.

2. If the party takes place in the evening, invite spouses and families.

While many offices hold their holiday parties during the workday, some prefer to host an evening soiree, either with snacks and drinks in the office or at an offsite location. However, these after-hours gatherings can be difficult for employees with family responsibilities, like children or elderly relatives at home. Therefore, offices should make every effort to welcome their employees’ families at these get-togethers. Purchase enough food to feed the employees and their loved ones, set up some kid-friendly activities, and make it possible for employees with family obligations to enjoy the party as well. 

3. Avoid games and activities that may be triggering, like mistletoe or Yankee Swap. 

The last emotions that should arise during an office holiday party are anxiety or physical discomfort, so it’s important to eliminate popular “party games” that can trigger these reactions. Mistletoe has no place in the workspace, and games like Yankee Swap that encourage participants to reject gifts selected by their colleagues can lead to feelings of alienation. A Secret Santa swap is a far more convivial option. 

4. Try to diversify the party playlist.

Yes, December parties frequently include playlists loaded up with Christmas carols. But in the interest of keeping your office party inclusive, you’ll want to mix it up. Go ahead and include a handful of Christmas songs (more secular tunes like Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” are a safe bet), but the bulk of the list should include feel-good music that isn’t seasonally specific, like classic rock or ‘90s pop.

5. If alcohol is served, make sure that there are plenty of great nonalcoholic options. 

Serving alcohol at office holiday parties is generally expected in many industries, and a tasty spiked punch or bowl of eggnog will definitely spice up your gathering. However, equally appealing options must be offered to employees who don’t partake in boozy beverages. A few cans of soda and bottles of water won’t suffice; if the alcohol drinkers get a punch and an eggnog, a non-alcoholic punch and a bowl of unspiked nog should also be prepared.