Businesses today have a harder time generating excitement for work events. While no individual company is to blame, the last 40 years of rising production despite wage stagnation has left many employees burned out, viewing after-hours gatherings as another unwelcome intrusion on their rapidly vanishing personal time.
Owners and C-suite members who wish to increase attendance and encourage positive social relationships among staff members need to do more than offer pizza and potlucks. What tips can they use to make their gathering the talk of the office water cooler? Here are five fun ways to add excitement to fall work events.
1. Light Up the Sky
Autumn and spring are perhaps the best times of the year to schedule workplace gatherings. Employers don’t have to worry about the summer’s heat causing potential health issues or icy roadways, making it treacherous for their staff members to navigate. Their biggest hurdle is generating enough excitement in people who typically punch out at five to stay into the evening.
Why not dazzle employees with a fabulous fireworks display? Smaller setups are simple enough for amateurs to manage, although savvy entrepreneurs may want to hire the pros for more complicated pyrotechnics displays. Have a bucket of water and a hose handy for extinguishing fires and check with the local fire department for advice on local ordinances and to give them a heads up if necessary.
Don’t forget the tiniest tots. One way to increase attendance is to make fall work events family-friendly so workers don’t have to scramble to find a babysitter. Better yet, hire a clown and professional supervision so adult employees can mix and mingle with the rest of the crew, secure in the knowledge that their little ones are safe. Furthermore, add a few sparklers to the pyrotechnics order — they’re safe for children aged seven and up.
2. Have Some Fun and Games
Hosting an after-hours fall work event with no festivities other than food and beverage service can be a recipe for a dull evening. It’s better to keep guests entertained with various fun and games that encourage camaraderie. After all, the point of such gatherings is to promote better social relationships between colleagues.
An obstacle course is a fun way to encourage healthy competition and fitness among staff members. It isn’t difficult to construct one, although there are companies to help with this endeavor. However, not everyone wants to get dirty, crawling through the mud and over walls. Include lower-key activities like a giant Jenga set or ring toss game so those with different physical abilities can participate in the fun.
Should music and dancing be on the activities list? It depends — are there workers brave enough to get on the floor? A professional DJ can be pricey, so consider the total budget before deciding on this amenity.
3. Keep Tabs on Drinks
Smart business owners want to add excitement of the right kind to their next fall work event. However, they want to avoid negative gossip about how someone behaved after one too many.
Serving alcoholic beverages will likely increase attendance but also the risk of foolish behavior or post-party disasters. Instead, take some steps to limit drink consumption and ensure employees get home safely — and with their dignity intact:
- Dilute en masse: One method of limiting alcohol consumption is to use a punch bowl. Serve premixed cocktails with a lighter-than-usual dose of the hard stuff. Guests can serve themselves from a dispenser or pick them up from a circulating server.
- Use a ticket system: Issue all attendees two tickets they can use toward alcoholic beverages as they enter. Ask guests if they are interested in alcohol before distributing them to discourage folks who want to borrow an extra ticket from someone who abstains.
- Close the bar: Declare an official cocktail hour and shut down the open bar afterward. Please note that some people may view this move as a signal to leave — have some excitement planned for the evening’s end to encourage folks to stay.
4. Plan a Delicious (and Inclusive) Menu
When staff members attend after-hours fall work events, they generally expect dinner. After all, many such gatherings interrupt their typical supper hour. The smartest business owners design a menu that is both delicious and appropriate for people with various dietary restrictions.
When hiring a caterer, discuss meals that do double duty, such as vegan butternut squash mac and cheese that’s also gluten-free. If serving a plated dish, offer several selections, including ones free of common allergens like wheat and nuts. If hosting a buffet, allow those with sensitivities to go first and have plenty of extra serving spoons for each dish to avoid cross-contamination worries.
Another option is the potluck — but don’t let it become a free-for-all. Instead, send out a list of menu items desired, like the following:
- A vegan dish
- A vegetarian dish
- A keto-friendly dish
- A gluten-free dish
- A nut-free dish
- A sugar-free dish
Have members select what they want to prepare. That way, there will be a variety of menu items catering to multiple sensitivities, allowing everyone to try a bite or two of something new.
5. Make Everyone a Star
One method to keep folks lingering until the event ends is to plan an award ceremony. However, some workers might feel discouraged and leave if they think they won’t receive anything.
Find a way to make everyone a star. Take a tip from high school yearbook clubs — anoint one person “Most Likely to Make People Laugh in a Meeting” and another “Most Likely to Bring in Tempting Leftovers” for example. It’s okay to save the big prizes for the best performers for last, but remember the old cliche about no “I” in a team. This event should build camaraderie and maybe inspire a bit of friendly competition, not make anyone feel neglected.
Keeping the Next Fall Work Event Exciting
Business owners have the tough job of getting staff members to spend more time on the clock. Their workers are tired and may be skeptical about what they view as intrusions on their private time. However, savvy executives can get their staff revved up by adding excitement to their next fall work event. The above tips will help create an evening worthy of positive water cooler talk.