|My workplace has a holiday party each January. I've been tasked with planning a holiday party to be held this month. Please help me think of ideas, given certain constraints.
I work in a professional office of 18 people in a city on the east coast of the U.S. We range in age from mid-20s to mid-60s. Our work is highly seasonal and the holidays are a busy time for us. Accordingly, we always have our office holiday party in January. I've been tasked with planning a party to be held later this month.
The party customarily spans a few mid-day hours on a day during the traditional work week. It almost always includes a group lunch and a group activity. We typically conclude our day an hour or two earlier than usual (at around 3:00 pm; we usually close at 5:00 pm) to provide everyone with a small amount of "extra" time off. We've learned that this approach is a good compromise between those who want a meal and activity, and those who want as much "extra" time off as possible. I'll therefore be expected to adhere to this structure. If I wish to deviate from it, I'll need to have a good (and cost-effective) reason for doing so.
As far as I can tell, the hallmarks of a successful holiday party for this group are (1) to enjoy each other's company in a relaxed setting, (2) eat a nice meal, (3) enjoy a non-competitive "family-friendly" activity that isn't passive (such as watching a movie), and (4) head home early.
Recent successful holiday parties from prior Januaries:
- Catered Mexican lunch in the office, followed by an escape room. Go home circa 3:00 pm.
- Sit-down lunch at a combination restaurant/bowling alley, followed by an hour of bowling. Go home circa 3:00 pm. We've done this twice in the past 4 years.
A recent not-so-successful example:
- Sit-down lunch at a restaurant, followed by a tour of a historic home. Go home circa 3:00 pm. Many in the office expressed the sentiment that the activity should be more fun and less overtly educational.
I'm not wild about the suggestions that I've received thus far, and the reasons I'll share might give you a sense of some of the challenges I've encountered in the planning phase:
- Lunch & bowling, again. It's fine, just tired.
- A catered lunch in the office, followed by a magician performing, also in the office (held on-site apparently to keep the magician expense manageable). Some, including me, find this activity too hokey even for our "family-friendly" approach. I also think that holding the entire party on-site doesn't feel special.
- Laser tag. Too competitive for some, too much physical activity for others, and too violent for others.
Cost is very much a factor. In fact, we had the lunch catered in the office last year in order to be able to afford the escape room tickets. The budget this year tops out at about $50/person. I could maybe go as high as $1,000 for the entire event for something original and innnovative.
Alcohol has never been a point of emphasis at this party. We may choose to have an alcoholic drink if we have lunch off-site, but that's it. Any brewery tours or the like are off limits.
If I can't come up with a viable activity, I'm open to suggesting a fairly upscale and expensive off-site lunch for the group, followed by simply leaving for the afternoon. I don't know if this will fly, but it is a consideration.
I'd prefer for as much of the party to be held outside the office as possible. I really liked the collaborative nature of the clue room activity in one of the prior years, so I was OK with having lunch on-site that year. Generally speaking, though, I think it's best to be off-site as much as possible. The party feels more special that way, and I think we're less likely to be drawn into work-related conversations if we are off-site.
Thanks in advance for any party ideas that fit these constraints!