Employer Tips for Holiday Celebrations

Pre-event Communications. In pre-event communications, establish expectations for employee conduct:
  • Ensure employees are aware of your workplace substance abuse and harassment policies.
  • Make it clear that no one is to drive under the influence. Individuals who appear to be intoxicated will be asked for their car keys and alternate transportation will be arranged.
Something Different.  Instead of the traditional “office party” with the focus on “drinking,” consider doing something different:
  • Try an indoor carnival, an outing to an amusement park, a group activity such as bowling or a volunteer opportunity with a local charity.
  • Provide a variety of entertainment (i.e., dancing, games) so that drinking is not the focus of the party.
Voluntary Activity.  Employers should convey to employees that the events are purely social and attendance is voluntary:
  • Do not conduct company business at the party – even distributing bonus checks or presenting speeches by senior management could be interpreted as company business.
  • Hold the event during non-working hours.
Managers.  Managers are the employer’s leadership representatives and it may be beneficial to consider the following practices:
  • Remind managers that their management responsibilities “don’t stop at the door.” If an employee’s drinking or conduct is inappropriate, a manager should not ignore or encourage such behavior. They should issue a “gentle reminder of appropriate decorum and behavior.”
  • Designate event party managers who may need to intervene to enforce the company’s alcohol and/or harassment policies.
  • Do not permit managers or supervisors to buy alcoholic beverages for employees.
Limit Consumption. – There are many ways to limit alcohol without spoiling the fun:
  • Offer only wine and beer.
  • Make sure there are plenty of non-alcoholic beverages available.
  • Use professional bartenders, or someone who will refrain from drinking during the event, to serve and monitor alcohol consumption.
  • Instead of an open bar, provide cash bars or implement a drink limit per individual. Stop serving alcohol early, well before the party’s scheduled ending time.
Food.  Certain types of food may help limit the consumption or the effects of alcohol. Consider the following:
  • Avoid serving lots of salty, greasy or sweet foods, which tend to make people thirsty.
  • Serve foods rich in starch and protein, which stay in the stomach longer and slow the absorption of alcohol in the bloodstream.
Alternative Transportation.  Encourage all employees to make use of alternative transportation if they consume any alcohol:
  • Anticipate the need for alternative transportation for event attendees and arrange alternative transportation and/or designated drivers in advance of the party.
  • Hold the party at a location that is easily accessible by public transportation.
  • If held at a hotel, arrange for a block of rooms that employees can reserve at a discount.
Several of these suggestions have been adapted from the U.S. Department of Labor recommendations and tips for office celebrations, which can be viewed on the DOL website.

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