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  • Writer's pictureMichele Haugh

Just because the office party is canceled, doesn't have to mean the Grinch has come to town.

I typically cringe when people refer to HR professionals as the “party planners”. Even though there may be some truth to this, it certainly does not sound particularly intellectually or professionally highbrow. Lucky for me, I actually love planning parties.  Secretly speaking, I am actually comfortable with that designation. What I love the most about planning employee events, is not just the creative element, or having a clear start and a finish (which is not the case with many HR responsibilities), it’s the satisfaction and joy I experience when I see people come together. There is something about a little friendly competition or a crazy hat day that breaks the ice and helps us see one another a bit more authentically….more so than sitting around a conference room table with a dizzying budget or list of aggressive deliverables shining up on the screen. Call me a softy, but there really is nothing better than seeing people laugh together, and form relationships, and know that I played a small role in making that connection happen.

I have been responsible for employee engagement budgets with several companies and have led engagement committees for many years. I’ve never had the luxury of working for a company with a huge engagement budget, but this did not stop me from planning fun and engaging activities. I have always looked at my engagement budget as a challenge to get the most bang (fun, laughter, and inclusivity) for my not so big buck. It has forced me to be really, really creative, and as my husband would attest to, a touch of scrappy. I have been known to shop around my home, fill a giant Rubbermaid bin with my own personal décor items, and ultimately, make a work event more festive. An HR lady has to do what she has to do. 

I have always favored having more frequent low or no-cost activities and reserving the bulk of my budget for one or two really nice events per year. As scrappy as I am, it is always nice to “wow” your team from time to time with a gesture or an activity that speaks of high quality and a level of detail that tells people “we really do care”. The rest of the time? Go low cost! I promise you, everyone will still appreciate the gesture and the break from the typical day-to-day routine. Anytime you can generate laughter and fun in the workplace and promote team bonding, there's often a much bigger win than giving an expensive gift or sponsoring a costly gourmet meal.

We all know that this year, more than ever, bringing teams together and providing some light and levity is incredibly important. So, with that sentiment, I have collected two dozen ideas (all easy and low cost) to share with you that can be used during the upcoming holiday season and throughout the year. I hope these ideas will help to create some laughter and new relationships. Go to our website and download a copy of our free guide. And if you are looking for ways to connect with your out-of-town family members, many of these ideas will work with them as well.

If you can’t remember how to play Scattegories or need some coaching on Kahoot, don’t hesitate to reach out to me on LinkedIn or through our website. I would love to help!

Go to for your free guide

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