If you’ve ever watched NBC’s “The Office,” you know how much Michael Scott loves parties.
He can find any excuse (and I mean any excuse) to stop work and throw a wonderfully bizarre celebration for Dunder Mifflin’s dedicated staff. (Or, more frequently, himself…)
While the parties aren’t always executed in the best way, Michael’s heart is (sometimes) in the right place.
So how can you, as a landscape business owner, throw a Michael Scott-worthy holiday celebration for your employees? No matter the size of your budget or team, we’ve put together some suggestions to help you get started.
Decide what’s right for you
First, a caveat.
We’re going to share specific ideas since practical advice is most helpful, but there’s no “right” way to throw a holiday party.
We know landscape businesses that take their employees and families out to fancy restaurants, throw extravagant dinner parties, have potlucks at the office, trade secret Santa gifts, attend sporting events, host gift exchanges, throw virtual virtual parties, or even celebrate with an annual paintball trip.
The point is just to show appreciation for your team in a way they’ll enjoy most.
With that said, let’s jump into some things you’ll want to consider before putting on your party planning hat.
What to consider in planning a landscape company holiday party
If you haven’t done much event planning (or haven’t been happy with the quality of past parties), it can be hard to even know where to start when it comes to throwing a holiday bash for your employees.
All great parties start with some basic decisions about:
The first step is always determining a budget.
As we’ve said, you don’t need a massive budget to throw a great party. No matter what you’re able to spend, you can show your employees how much you appreciate them by planning a thoughtful and creative event.
Beware, though, if you have the funds to use for a party but try to spend as little as possible, it can have the opposite effect. Staff can tell when you’re sticking to the budget and when you’re just skimping on costs, and that can get you into trouble.
So just don’t be a Scrooge about it.
Before you go much further, it’s good to decide on a clear purpose for the event.
Most end-of-year parties are designed to reward staff for their hard work and celebrate successes from the past year.
As you think about how to frame the party, it can also help to evaluate the winter holidays celebrated by your employees. If you have staff who don’t celebrate Christmas, for example, you might want to call it a “holiday” or “winter” party instead of a Christmas party.
Next, you need to decide on the type of event you want to have.
This is where you can get creative based on your staff’s preferences. If you have a small team, many of you may enjoy the same type of activity—playing volleyball, ice fishing, watching movies, or even just hanging out at a bar.
If you have a large team, though, it’s probably impossible to find a special activity everyone will want to participate in. While you could give individual departments a budget to decide on their own activity, it’s always a good team-building idea to bring the whole company together to share in a single celebration.
Once you know how much you can spend and what type of event you want to have, it’s time to choose your location.
If you decided on an activity-based party, you probably know the location already. If you’re having a more typical holiday party, though, there are lots of possible venues.
For most holiday parties, you can use a restaurant, event space, or your office (if cost prevents you from going somewhere else).
Alternatively, if your employees feel more comfortable with a virtual event, you could host it over Zoom and still use many of the suggestions in this post—with minor alterations.
You’ll also need to decide who’s invited.
Is it just employees? Employees and partners? Whole families?
This will depend, of course, on the other factors you’ve already determined, like budget, venue, and event type.
Whatever you decide, make sure to specify guest information when you send holiday party invitations to your staff—especially if you decide to limit guests or host an adults-only party.
The last thing to think about before you start planning the details is how you want to handle alcohol consumption during the event.
First, will alcohol be allowed at the party? If so, will it be provided or BYOB? What kind of drinks will be offered, and will there be a limit to how many each guest receives?
Most employees will probably want some form of alcoholic beverage during the celebration, but you can decide how it’s provided and how consumption is managed to prepare appropriately.
Now that we’ve covered some planning basics, it’s time to dig into a few practical suggestions for throwing an unforgettable holiday party worthy of Michael Scott.
How to throw an incredible holiday party for your landscape employees
Ready for some holiday party ideas? Here are our top five tips for throwing an amazing celebration for your lawn care or landscape company.
We’ve already covered some creative ideas for choosing the type of celebration you want to have, but even if you decide to go the standard holiday party route, you can still find ways to shake up the experience.
Holiday party themes can be great—or terrible—depending on the personality of your team and the theme you choose. If you decide to go with a theme, make sure it’s one your employees will get excited about (and not roll their eyes at).
Themes you could try include:
- A popular TV show everyone’s talking about
- A decade to use for costumes, activities, and food
- “Inside joke” theme (e.g., dress up like a different department or members of the executive team)
Even without a theme, you can try different activities, games, or food to spice things up.
For example, you could have multiple food stations with different types of cuisine, set up a photo booth, play party games like human bingo, “roast” the leadership team, rent a karaoke machine, bring food trucks to the office, play company-specific trivia, hold a holiday cocktail-making class, or invite a guest performer like a comedian or singer (make sure they’re really good first).
Set the mood
The “bones” of your event are important, but don’t forget about the little things that can make or break the overall experience. You can have delicious food and the coolest activity, but if the event doesn’t feel right, guests won’t enjoy it as much.
So how can you be sure to set the right mood?
Thankfully, it’s not hard. The secret is to plan for four simple things: decorations, music, lighting, and layout.
Make sure the space is laid out in a way that makes it easy to move around, socialize, and participate in activities comfortably.
Use decorations that match your theme (if you have one), or provide a generally festive atmosphere if you don’t.
If you’re holding a party in your office, look for ways to minimize the effects of harsh fluorescent lighting—either by bringing in candles, hanging string lights, or using a space with lots of natural light (if your party is during the day).
Finally, don’t forget about the music! Pick or create a playlist that matches the mood. If you’re going for an upbeat, nontraditional party, for example, you probably want to avoid a Christmas classics soundtrack with Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole.
Choose the right time
Scheduling your holiday party is one of the most important (and sometimes difficult) steps in the process.
As you think about when to hold the event, it can be worthwhile to explore options you haven’t considered in the past.
Could you have it a few weeks before the end of the year, as a kickoff to the holiday season? Or perhaps a couple weeks into the new year to celebrate new beginnings?
If it’s difficult to find an evening that works for everyone, could you have a lunchtime party and give everyone the rest of the day off?
If you’re feeling constrained by a tight budget, think about times that require light refreshments instead of a full meal—like a mid-morning coffee break or late afternoon happy hour with appetizers.
You can go the extra mile in showing team members your gratitude by providing small gifts, gift cards, personalized holiday cards, or prizes.
If you aren’t sure what to offer for gifts, you could create a mini catalog of options in a price range of your choice and let everyone submit their requests a few weeks in advance. That way everyone gets something they want during the party.
You could also hold a raffle as part of the event, but keep the prizes small and plentiful so lots of people have the chance to walk away as “winners.”
Finally, if only certain employees are getting bonuses or gifts, don’t hand them out during the party. Even if you think you’re being discreet, other staff members will notice—and won’t feel very appreciated.
If you’re going to have alcohol at your party (which you probably are), you may want to do a little extra preparation.
First, talk to staff about your policies—if you’re limiting drinks, for example—and remind everyone to drink responsibly. If there are staff members who’ve become overly intoxicated at events in the past, make sure someone keeps an eye on them and can cut them off if needed.
You’ll also want to make sure anyone who leaves the party has the necessary transportation. It might be a good idea to leave some wiggle room in your budget to cover Uber rides if needed.
The key to planning a great office holiday party
Holiday parties get a bad rap. (That’s why “The Office” could mock them so successfully.)
Unfortunately, there’s not usually a lot of thought or intentionality that goes into planning them. They’re thrown together at the last minute, or the same themes are repeated year after year. Employees attend out of obligation and try to get out the door as quickly as possible.
Landscape businesses can do better.
Great, memorable parties don’t require huge budgets, fancy venues, or months of stressful planning.
The key is to use the time to show your staff you appreciate them, something we know is critical for employee retention. If your party demonstrates care and thoughtfulness, that’s what matters.
And if you’re having trouble getting into the party-planning spirit, just watch a Christmas episode of “The Office” and try to channel your inner Michael Scott.
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