October 1, 2017

How to Handle the Holiday Spirits

(and the wine and beer, too!)

A desk after the Office Christmas party, focus on the diary entry.It’s that time of year once more—the holidays are just around the corner, and so are all the accompanying office festivities. Managers everywhere are already planning gift swaps, happy hours, and holiday parties galore. But before you don your favorite “ugly” sweater and jingly reindeer antlers, make sure you’re ready for that most unpredictable party guest: alcohol.

Hey, we get it. The holidays are a chance to kick back and socialize. And when imbibed responsibly, alcoholic spirits can help boost, well, the party spirits! But the work of an HR Hero is never finished—even during that very first sip of spiked eggnog.

With its well-known ability to unleash tongues, unbottle feelings, and prompt insta-‘grettable photos, serving alcohol at the office party can easily cause an HR hangover. (Check out our “alcohol and the workplace” infographic to see why!) But before you declare prohibition, take heart: you can still be HR savvy without being a teetotaler. You just need to have guidelines in place. So, put down the chips and dip and listen up! Here’s how to keep the party fun and (hopefully) HR hangover-free.

  • Skip the hard spirits

Beer and wine make for better bedfellows than liquor at work events. As the saying goes, “Tequila’ll kill ya,” vodka can dock ya (OK, I made that one up), and whiskey…well, ANYTHING could happen with whiskey. Even if you’re a fan in other settings, avoid the temptation of potent cocktails and shots to help keep over-consumption under control.

  • Offer lots of non-alcoholic options

Offer a wide selection of sodas, flavored seltzers, and even tea and coffee. Not only will this help the non-drinkers feel included, but it will give others needed hydration and breaks from alcohol consumption. And of course, have water readily available. Your employees will thank you in the morning.

  • Call in the pros

Hire a professional bartender to serve drinks. This restricts access to any underage drinkers who might be in attendance, and a pro should cut off those who’ve had too much. Avoid DIY drink stations that invite heavy pours and day-after cautionary tales.

  • Make Martha Stewart proud

Food is a must at your holiday party. Not only is a tasty spread festive, it gives partygoers something to do other than stand and sip. Food also plays the very important role of slowing the body’s absorption of alcohol—while it does not negate the effects, a tipsy buzz will take longer to surface. Serve carbohydrate and protein-heavy options for the best effect.

  • Choose your venue wisely

Consider hosting your party off-site. Alcohol invites the unexpected, and while it might seem like a cozy idea to host at a private home or at the office, a party at a restaurant or some other outside venue helps reduce your liability.

  • Schedule on a weeknight

Keep the urge to binge drink at a minimum by hosting your party on a weeknight. Knowing everyone needs to be ready for work in the morning deters all but the wildest of party animals from drinking too heavily.

  • Give a set time frame

With no end time in sight, guests might commit to imbibing for the long haul. By providing a set time frame, employees are psychologically prepared to tailor their drinking for the time allotted. To help people sober up for the journey home, set a cutoff time for alcohol an hour ahead of the party’s end.

  • Beware the binge

In addition to hiring a professional bartender, you may want to put other restrictions in place to limit drinking. Have a set tab on the bar and resist the urge to add more money to it. You may also want to give guests a set number of “drink tickets” rather than providing a completely open bar.

  • Offer a way home

The most hazardous part of the night will be ensuring everyone gets home safely—no celebration is worth an accident or a DUI! As if that wasn’t scary enough, employers in the past have been held liable when an employee drove home from a work party intoxicated. Rest easy and provide Uber, Lyft or taxi options—and publicize the fact in advance. It’s a very small price to pay for peace of mind and the safety of your team.

In short?

Yes, you can choose to serve alcohol at your holiday function. Hosting a companywide party is a great way to boost morale and celebrate everybody’s amazing accomplishments of the past year—and if alcohol is something you’d like to offer, more power to you! Just plan carefully with these tips in mind to help keep your holidays, merry, bright, and SAFE.

Cheers to a happy holiday season!

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace counsel about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. This material is meant to provide information that is believed to be current as of the date of this post.

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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