Judging by statistics, Santa is bound to give certain holiday office partiers a big fat lump of coal.
More than half of full- and part-time employees report seeing co-workers behaving badly under the influence of alcohol at work-related parties. That means small-business owners need a guide to running end-of-the-year festivities—right. Here's our guide to having a great holiday work party that also won't get you in trouble with the law.
Making a List, Partying Right
Charley Moore of Rocket Lawyer, which offers online legal resources for small businesses and individuals, offers holiday party tips to go beyond the booze and bad behavior.
Owners should pay attention to several specific factors when it comes to writing off work-related holiday-party expenses.
"The number one thing to remember is that any entertainment must be directly related to your business," Moore says. "In other words, before, during or after the party, business must be conducted. Whether it’s the debut of a new product or service, a product demonstration or a sales pitch, the business has to be present at the event. Throwing a party simply to make everyone happy is not enough to make the expenses tax deductible."
From there, the guide to write-offs work in two ways:
- If the event is open to the public, you can write off 100 percent of your expenses.
- If your holiday party is an employee-and-customers only affair, you can only write off 50 percent of the bill.
Of course, save your receipts and keep your entertainment choices within workplace parameters. The IRS tends to frown upon expenses that can be deemed too extravagant.
Some small-business owners might never once give it a thought, but the fact is that you can be held liable for holiday-party mishaps. Check with your current business-insurance policy to ensure that what you're planning is covered. Event spaces will often make this a requirement, when it comes to your plan, but your on-premises ideas require forethought, too.
3. The Paperwork
Get your party plan agreements with vendors in writing. You want to see clearly stated payment and cancellation policies for every partner, day of, from the DJ to the caterer.
4. Who's Working, Who's Playing?
Hector Alvarez of Alvarez Associates saw one party end up in insurance-heavy hot water when it hosted a holiday party offsite and put an administrative assistant into the role of onsite coordinator.
It sounded so simple. The company asked the employee to "take care of a few minor details and then enjoy herself," Alvarez says.
"She ended up getting very drunk at the party and on her way to her hotel room, she fell down an escalator," he says. "The company ended up being found liable for her work-related injuries because she successfully made the argument that she was required to be at the party. The company now makes very clear distinctions between working at and simply attending a party. Working equals no drinking."
5. The Eggnog Factor
After making certain you're tax-compliant, insurance-covered, and have established clear understandings of responsibilities and policies, don't let your workplace holiday event veer off course because of booze.
Nearly one in three people have seen someone flirt with a co-worker or supervisor at a work event, according to a 2011 study from Caron Treatment Centers. Make sure you have a game plan in place for how to handle inappropriate behavior that could potentially lead to a sexual harassment claim.
Offer cabs and coordinate designated drivers in advance of the party to protect everyone’s safety. Also consider serving food, and limit the amount of the time the bar is open to keep things from getting too jolly.
With these ideas in mind, you're front-loading this holiday season for success, not surprises. Raise a glass and have a good time, and may our guide to your small-biz festivities keep it the kind of party everyone wants to talk about the next day.
In addition to writing about social media and content strategy, James O'Brien blogs for Contently about business, politics, technology, and travel. He is a correspondent for Boston University's Research Magazine and has written extensively as a news correspondent for The Boston Globe. He joined the caption-research team for photo-essayist Rick Smolan's new book, The Human Face of Big Data, in 2012. James blogs via Contently.com.