1. Office Memos Are Not Invites

Don’t let holiday party plans make employees feel like Bob Cratchit—forced to stay late and continue to work unrewarded when all they want is to go home to their families. The purpose of a company party is to show employees they are appreciated. Sending invitations, even digitally, which are distinct from other company communications (emails, memos, bulletin board posts) is a crucial first step in planning a successful party. An invitation promises reprieve from work, and won’t illicit moans about additional holiday pressure and stress. Make them feel something special is being done for them, something optional and fun, not mandatory to their success at the workplace.

2. Pick a Theme

If the office is small it’s easy to pick a theme. A popular joke, favorite conversation topic, or a recent office meme are all important elements to factor into planning a successful party. But if the company is large, a personalized theme will only alienate, so the best thing to do is coordinate a theme that provides a relaxing counterpoint to daily business.

The holiday is primary, but workers of all religious persuasions and holiday preferences can celebrate at a themed party like “A Tropical Winter Wonderland.”

3. Decorate, Decorate, Decorate

No holiday party comes without a budget, but don’t underestimate the importance of décor when fashioning a holiday themed room. Being resourceful about decorations and party supplies can make a great impression. With proper planning and careful shopping, even plastic plates can add to the ambience of the party.

4. All Play and No Work

Party is the opposite of work, which is why work parties can be as dreaded as they are appreciated. To make a work party successful, the work has to be extricated from the party. This means no one should be gossiping about co-workers or complaining about clients, and no one should be negotiating or talking shop. To ensure that the party is all play plan activities with low-pressure participation and high levels of fun like work related trivia. Also ensure that the opportunity for extracurricular entertainment is available so that multiple groups of people can engage in activities at once.

5.  Prizes Should Be Prized, But…

When someone answers a trivia question correctly or knows more factoids about the CEO’s cat than her co-workers, reward her with a prize. Something modest, but not something cheap. Company party prizes should always be better than the employees expect they’ll be, without crossing the line into becoming something excessive or envy arousing. (If it’s hard to determine what falls into the category of appropriate, re-watch that holiday episode of The Office where the white elephant game goes sour when an iPod shows up).

6. Food for All

Abundant and delicious food are essential to any party’s success, but when it’s a company party it’s especially important to ensure that the food available is not only tasty and obviously well prepared but also accommodates everyone’s nuanced diet. Never assume when it comes to the food, many people won’t announce their specific allergies or preferences, they will simply work around them when they see what’s available. So, be sure to consider vegetarians, vegans, and even common allergies when planning your main courses. Vegetable eaters should be able to dine on more than just salad.

7. Drinks on the House

If alcohol is offered, ensure that at least a portion of it is free to all. At a party being thrown in the office, all beverages should be as free as the food. For offsite events two free drinks per attendee is considered standard.

8. Cabs on Call

Make your employees feel special and ensure their safety by alerting a local cab company to the date and approximate end time of your party. Offer to let some queue up outside the front door if the party takes place at work or request a similar service from the offsite event you attend. Either way, it should be a pre-planned, streamlined process that requires minimal effort to execute when the time comes.

9. Coat Checks are Classy

Whether it’s a teenaged niece or nephew who wants to earn a few extra holiday dollars, or a favorite temp agency just waiting to supply you with an experienced coat check mechanic, providing a coat check service for an after hours holiday staff party is the easiest way to treat your co-workers or employees with class.

10. Parting Gifts

Offering party-goers something small on their way out the door is a sure fire way to impress them. Parting gifts even the playing field, and ensure that no one goes home stewing over the prize they didn’t win at trivia. Whether it be a mint chocolate, a gift certificate, or some other small surprise, the parting gift should always be easy to carry in a pocket, useful, and of high quality.