Office Parties

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Although your co-workers might not be your first choice for party guests, if you approach an office party with the same attitude as you would a party in your home, it can actually be an enjoyable event. Don't spend time or money on expensive food or décor; instead, focus on what is important: relaxing with your co-workers and, perhaps, becoming better acquainted as you honor a company or personal milestone.
    You'll Need
  • Your manager or human resources department's authorization to spend company funds
  • Company SWAG (Stuff We All Get) for favors
Date, Theme, Budget, and Venue
Late afternoon or early evening—The actual date of your party will vary according to the event; however, it's a good idea to begin office parties in the late afternoon or even the early evening, giving co-workers a chance to clear off their desks. Because an office party toes the line between duty and pleasure, the timing of the party should do the same.

Various themes—Office parties tend to bring out the goofiness in people, so feel free to ham it up when you're planning your office-party theme, whether you're hosting a retirement, shower, bon voyage, or birthday party.

Sliding budget—Your office petty-cash fund should be paying for this party, so you'll have to talk to your manager or human resources department to determine your budget. It's probably safe to assume that your budget will be minimal, unless you are celebrating a company milestone, such as 10 years in business, the closing of a big deal, or the launch of a successful product.

Break room, conference room, or roof venue—Select a large, open space for your party, somewhere you and your co-workers can unwind and feel comfortable. If you have the budget for it, rent a private room in a restaurant or bar. You might also rent a room in a moderately priced business hotel, assuming there is one nearby.

Guest List and Invitations
Invite everyone from the departments involved; don't omit a single employee, even if he's the weird guy who sits by the copy machine. Discuss the guest list with your manager to determine whether you should invite vendors, suppliers, or other people who don't actually work for your company.

Use an Internet-based invitation system to invite guests and track RSVPs. You might also post something in the break room or other area frequented by employees.

The free food is probably the most compelling reason people attend office parties, so make sure you put your full effort into planning a great menu. Here are a few ideas for different budget ranges:

  • Low (<$10/person)—If you don't have much to spend, focus on one menu element, such as a fabulous cake or superb finger foods. Don't try to provide booze on a low budget; instead, provide sodas and water, and do a little research so you can suggest a great venue for an "impromptu" after-party, should anyone want to grab a few drinks.

  • Midrange ($10-$20/person)—With a little more money to spend, try to find unexpected and delicious food. If your company relies on pizza, sandwiches, or the ubiquitous "big cookie" for its regular party fare, steer clear. Consider an ethnic specialty, such as Chinese, Thai, or Indian catering; you'll find prices are lower than you think for ample amounts of quality food.

  • High (>$20/person)—If you have a large budget, use it. Either rent a room in a great restaurant or hire a professional caterer. If you're planning to spend a fair amount of money, food-service professionals should comp you a full meal at their establishment, allowing you to enjoy the atmosphere and flavors and make an informed decision about where to host your event.
Surprise is the key to planning a successful menu for your co-workers. If you're able to brainstorm several reasonable options, go with the one that's least familiar to the people with whom you work. They'll get a kick out of trying something new, especially if it's on the company's dime.

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More on: Pop Culture

Reproduced from Plan a Fabulous Party In No Time, by Tamar Love, by permission of Pearson Education. Copyright © 2005 by Que Publishing.

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