Office holiday party ideas for teams of every size and budget

15 Office Holiday Party Ideas for Teams of Every Size (and Budget)

Posted November 15, 2017 by Caroline Whitney in Managing Your Team
Want to breathe some life into a stale office holiday party? We have office party ideas for all types of teams.

It’s that time of year again at the office! Holiday lights, pies in the break room, end of year excitement...and boring or played-out holiday events.

The holidays are a time when everyone feels festive, and offices often want to share in that feeling.  And any holiday party should be a quality team bonding experience. But the result is often a waste-of-money gift swap or a bad cookie plate. The holidays should be relaxing and fun, even if we're still at the office and not on vacation just yet.  

So, how do you breathe some life into the stale office holiday party?  Here are some holiday office party (and holiday treat) ideas for teams of every size and budget. 

Psst...Wondering how you can show employees you care during the holidays? Download a free eBook with 109 ways to appreciate employees on a budget.

15 Holiday Party Ideas

1. Have a Holiday Food Themed Potluck

This one is simple, but one of our favorites. A potluck is a chance for people to show off their culinary or baking chops — or, let’s be honest, how great they are at picking out tasty treats from Whole Foods. Take an afternoon to taste your coworkers’ wares and chat about anything other than work. Easy, relaxing, and delicious! Bring on the latkes and pumpkin pies, please. Or if your team likes a little healthy competition, why not a holiday food bake off?  I’ll make my favorite — winter fruit pie with walnut crumb!

2. Organize a Better Holiday Gift Exchange

We’ve all heard of “secret santas” and “white elephant” gift exchanges, but here’s a way to make your office gift exchange even better.

Elfster is a website that makes your exchange seamless: pick the date of the exchange, the deadline for signing up, and the spending limit. Then, invite your office mates to join the gift exchange, and Elfster will match participants up. Individuals can even make a wish list (under the spending limit, of course) so we all don’t end up with singing toothbrushes again this year. 

We used Elfster at my old office, and it was great. I got a gift certificate to my favorite coffee place, instead of a wreath-scented candle I’ll never use.

3. Have a Cookie Swap

Everyone loves holiday cookies! Instead of a gift exchange, why not have a cookie swap? Provide the recipes with your cookies as well, to bump the gifts up a notch.

4. See a Holiday Show Together

Why not do something different and go see the Rockettes as a group? Or for a more affordable option, perhaps that feel-good holiday movie that everyone’s been raving about? Even a comedy show, while not holiday-related, is a great idea for a team activity around the holidays.

5. Give Everyone a Small (or Large!) Holiday Gift

Whether it’s a small treat or something more substantial, everyone appreciates a gift! If you’re the head of your team and have the resources to give them a token of your appreciation for the past year, your employees are sure to get into the holiday spirit.  Consider a Fitbit for your team. In fact, studies have shown that exercising a few days a week can increase employee productivity by 15%! Or maybe consider some team swag (sweet sunglasses, anyone)?  Even a small gift certificate to a great coffee joint goes a long way, in my book.

6. Volunteer Together

Okay, so this isn’t exactly a party idea. But, this time of year can be especially rough for those in need, so giving your time and support as a group during the holidays is a great idea. Serve a meal at a soup kitchen, or visit a children’s hospital and play with the kids. Not to mention, doing charity together helps build team morale and makes people feel good.

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7. Take ‘Em Out to Lunch

Can’t afford a big company dinner? Consider a holiday lunch instead. Lunch prices are often more affordable, and a welcome break to a work day. Hey, take off the whole afternoon for lunch while you’re at it!  

Another option is going out for a holiday dinner, but with everyone agreeing to pay their own way. That’s what my office used to do when I worked for a non-profit, and everyone was happy to chip in. Of course they were — there was food there!

8. Have a Holiday Happy Hour

Instead of having a holiday dinner, why not be a little more casual about it and plan a holiday happy hour? If you can swing it, open a tab at a festive spot for your team. If that's too pricey for you, find a place with good deals, throw on a Santa hat, and relax with your team.

9. Make a Homemade Holiday Photobooth in Your Office

Take some construction paper and twinkly lights, and cut out a holiday scene for the background. Then, bring in funny props: elf hats, menorahs, fake snow, whatever!  

Leave the booth up in your break room for the whole month of December. Team members can take photobooth pictures with their phone and get creative with an office hashtag, or you can spring for a polaroid camera and post the hilarity around the office. If you don't feel like making it holiday themed, you can also just bring in a company-themed photo booth too. Justworks did this during a summer bash and it was a blast!

Blog - Image - Photo booth fun

Justworks had a GIF photobooth at one of our parties and people LOVED it. You can email the GIFs to friends and even print them out for later.

10. Go Ice Skating

This fun activity brings everyone back to the holidays of their childhood.  Can’t skate? Sipping hot chocolate and watching Rosalind from legal try not to fall is just as great.

11. Cater a Tasty Treat to the Office

Instead of asking everyone to bake, surprise them with something fun and different for an afternoon snack. How about frozen yogurt with all the fixins? Or warm, freshly baked cookies? Or even savory Chobani yogurts?  My office once brought in Bantam Bagels around the holidays, and I am still dreaming of those little bundles of cream cheese filled goodness. Get creative!

12. Bring the Entertainment to You

Hiring a magician or comedian to come to your office may sound cheesy, but it’s a surprisingly fun change of pace. Too silly for your team? A story teller or inspiring speaker are also great options. If you live in a major city, you can also consider a fun tour company like Museum Hack to provide the entertainment.

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13. Have an Afternoon of Holiday Fun

Instead of a party, take your team to a holiday market where they can sip cider and take in the pretty lights. Totally affordable, and a nice change of pace from the office!

14. Bring Your Team to a Holiday Cooking Class

Fun, different, and tasty! You can find a lot of group deals for cooking classes on Groupon, so keep an eye out and schedule ahead of time.

15. Have a Decorating Contest

Decorate your office door, or split cubicle rows up into teams, and see who comes up with the funniest or most creative winter scene.  

The options for your office holiday party are endless - and affordable. Don’t hesitate to pick a few of these options and run with them, or add your own fun ideas.

Have a combination pumpkin themed bake off and holiday costume contest. Compile everyone’s favorite holiday songs into a playlist for your gingerbread house decorating contest.

Get creative and make your holiday party, event, or treat for your team better than last year’s. Your employees will feel appreciative and rewarded after a year of hard work.