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Planning your work Christmas party
Business advice

Planning your work Christmas party

5 min read

The work Christmas party is a time-honoured tradition – a moment for fun, festive cheer, and perhaps a memorable karaoke performance or two. But planning an office xmas party is no small feat, especially at an uncertain time where work Christmas dinners and get-togethers haven’t always been possible. So whatever restrictions are in place, and whatever you’re comfortable with, we’ve cooked up some virtual and in-person work Christmas tips and party ideas to inspire you and your team to celebrate in style.

How to plan a work Christmas party

Santa might have nine reindeer, but we’ve gone one better and come up with ten tips for planning an office Christmas party. And of course, the colder months of the year are a time for many religious festivals, including Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Diwali, so many of these tips can apply to whichever religious festival – or indeed any social occasion – you choose to celebrate.

  1. Don’t leave it too late

Some businesses have been known to start planning their Christmas party months – not weeks – ahead of the big date in the years before the pandemic. Diaries get full and venues get booked-up, so even before you’ve confirmed a booking you could send out a ‘save the date’ to your colleagues.

  1. Delegate to a team

If your co-workers are keen to organise the office xmas party themselves, could this take some weight off your shoulders? A dedicated Christmas party planning committee could save you time, boost staff morale and leave you with more time for all your other business activity during the Christmas rush.

  1. Make a budget

For many businesses, the office Christmas bash is a time to splash out to reward their employees. Doing your sums early could help you figure out what type of party you can afford.

  1. Plan your food and drink

Few partygoers are going to be pleased if their stomachs are rumbling midway through an event. Here are some of the questions to ponder when it comes to Christmas party grub:

  • Do you want a sit-down team Christmas dinner?
  • Would your team prefer canapés or street food?
  • Could you consider an outsider caterer?
  • Will you pay for extra activities after the meal ?
  • What are people’s dietary requirements?
  1. Secure a venue

Father Christmas might wait until the last minute to deliver presents, but that doesn’t mean you should dilly dally when it comes to planning a festive party. Restaurants, bars and clubs account for 49% of Christmas party bookings, according to a study by Venue Search. The research also found that just 11% of businesses host their Christmas party in their own office.

  1. Ask for RSVPs

Once you have a Christmas party idea (or booking) to run past your team, you can do a headcount of exactly how many people you expect to attend. If you’ve previously asked for a ‘save the date’, you could firm this up and send out RSVPs, including a deadline, through an e-CRM system. Many venues ask for pre-authorised payments or booking deposits, so getting the numbers wrong could prove costly if you have any no-shows.

  1. Do you want a theme?

If you’re looking to really put a smile on people’s faces, you could ask your attendees to embrace a theme. Ideas for Christmas fancy dress could include classic xmas jumpers, reindeer hats, or characters from festive movies. Or you could go off-script and choose a non-Christmas theme – from ‘70s disco to a good old pirate party.

  1. Decide on entertainment

Do you want your Christmas party to be a simple team dinner or something more extravagant? Entertainment ideas for your office Christmas party could include features like a karaoke or photo booth, or even live music and comedy. You could also use your Christmas party to recognise your colleagues’ hard work in a special awards ceremony, perhaps with a supportive speech or two.

  1. Communicate logistics

Making sure your colleagues are aware of the start and end times, the venue, and transportation options could provide some reassurance. How will your staff get to the venue (and back home) safely? And as we all know, planning a Christmas party during a pandemic presents an unenviable challenge – later on, we’ll cover some ideas for planning a virtual Christmas party.

  1. Include everyone

Work Christmas parties are an opportunity to make everyone feel welcome, from interns and new starters to your senior staff. You may also wish to be mindful of creating an inclusive atmosphere; for example, by serving a variety of soft drinks, mocktails and juices. And of course, Christmas is a religious festival which people observe to varying degrees (or not at all), so you may want to go the extra mile to ensure that everyone feels able to participate in your special occasion.

Virtual work Christmas party ideas

If you do decide to host a virtual work Christmas party, here are some ideas:

  • Virtual gift cards. Instead of spending your budget on a venue, you could set a budget for a virtual gift card and send it to your employees’ inboxes. This means they can treat themselves to something special at a range of online retailers.
  • Secret Santa. You could organise a ‘Secret Santa’ (where your team members draw lots, then buy for and receive gifts from a mystery colleague) then share the present unveiling over a video call.
  • Shared experiences. Christmas movie watchalongs, where everyone watches the same film at the same time while hanging out online, could help maintain a spirit of togetherness even when you’re apart.

Are Christmas parties a taxable benefit?

No, subject to certain conditions. Generally, where it is an annual party available to all your staff at a particular location, and the costs are £150 or less per person (including VAT), it shouldn’t be a taxable benefit for your employees. Staff entertainment such as Christmas parties could also be a deductible expense for your business tax purposes. Read more on GOV.UK, and explore the Tyl guide to tax for small businesses.

More ideas from Team Tyl

Once you’re ready to take a break from all that Christmas party planning, check out some of our latest guides to help with the day-to-day management of your business.


This has been prepared by Tyl by NatWest for informational purposes only and should not be treated as advice or a recommendation. There may be other considerations relevant to you and your business so you should undertake your own independent research.

Tyl by NatWest makes no representation, warranty, undertaking or assurance (express or implied) with respect to the adequacy, accuracy, completeness, or reasonableness of the information provided.

Tyl by NatWest accepts no liability for any direct, indirect, or consequential losses (in contract, tort or otherwise) arising from the use of the information contained herein. However, this shall not restrict, exclude, or limit any duty or liability to any person under any applicable laws or regulations of any jurisdiction which may not be lawfully disclaimed.

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