It’s been a demanding week. You’ve taken a thousand Zoom calls. You’ve heard the Slack notification sound so many times you’re hearing it in your sleep. And your last project for the week? You’ve got to plan the office happy hour.
The concept of a “happy hour” can be traced back to the United State Navy. In the early 20th century, a “happy hour” consisting of dancing and other activities helped keep morale high and quickly spread throughout the armed forces by the end of World War I. Food and drinks would also become part of the festivities and Prohibition would actually help popularize the concept.
Despite alcohol being illegal, clandestine cocktail hours in private residences of speakeasies would become commonplace. Once Prohibition ended, bars and restaurants embraced the modern “Happy Hour,” featuring discounted food and beverages, as a way to drum up business. Although some states have actually banned the Happy Hour concept! Sorry, Alaska, Indiana, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Utah and Vermont!
But how can a happy hour translate to a professional setting?
Office happy hours can be a great way to bring a team together. As the modern workplace continues to evolve and increasingly features a split between working from home and commuting to an office, it can be difficult to foster a sense of community. But putting a happy hour event on the calendar complete with food, drinks and some low stress activities can help remedy the daily grind and show some appreciation for your hard working team.
Most karaoke machines can be purchased for less than $200, are easy to set up and store. You can make it even more fun by adding a bit of competition to the mix by having your team vote for their favorite singer of the bunch!
The budget method is to get YouTube up on your smart TV, tablet or laptop and search for a karaoke (instrumental) version of a song. Beyond that, Wirecutter (NYTimes) put together a great guide on karaoke machines for small gatherings.
Drinks at a happy hour event are almost a given but after a long work week, your team is going to need some food, too! Thankfully, CaterCow can help you out there! Many of the restaurants that provide drinks also have a bevy of happy hour friendly catering options as well! You can opt for a simple selection of appetizers or charcuterie to provide a little snack for your guests or for longer events you can opt for a whole buffet-style dinner spread! What’s even better is that you can use the food and drink aspect to help spice up your theme! Planning a Cinco de Mayo Happy Hour? Mixed tequila drinks and tacos would be a perfect complement!
Depending on the time of year for your happy hour event, it might be fun for your team to show off their creativity by settling on a theme and asking everyone to arrive in costume! Who said costumes had to be reserved for Halloween or that you couldn’t have Christmas in July?!
Break out the pearls, the Roaring 20s are back! Well, maybe they’re slightly delayed due to the pandemic but we’re working on it. You can kick things into gear at your next office get together! Turn that boring conference room into a speakeasy complete with black and gold decorations, a spread of tasty appetizers and the opportunity for everyone to get all dolled up! And if you have the budget, an on-site mixologist will ensure that your party is the bee’s knees!
They’re unavoidable at this point - superheroes are everywhere and everyone has their favorites. You can find out who in the office is a total Marvel zombie or a dedicated DC fan. But this kind of theme doesn’t have to be limited to the Big Two. There are sure to be fans of plenty of other superhero media such as The Boys, Hellboy and Invincible amongst your colleagues. This theme might seem a little bit childish but it’s low-stress and presents a great opportunity for an icebreaker.
If you ask around the CaterCow office, The Office is the greatest sitcom of all time. But inviting your colleagues to a party where they can dress as their favorite sitcom characters is a great way for everyone to get to know each other and take a trip down memory lane with characters they might have forgotten about! Just make sure you involve the Party Planning Committee. You don’t want a repeat of the “A Pizza Your Own” party of 1993.
This is an easy theme that combines great tunes and loud decorations. The 80s are perfect for an office party because it was a decade jam packed with fashion and pop culture. The 80s saw the introduction of Bud Light, the Apple MacIntosh and MTV! For some added fun, purchase some disposable cameras (invented in 1987!) and leave them around the party for anyone to use. Once you get those developed, you’re sure to have some great candid shots!
Everyone loves opening gifts so why leave it to just the holiday season? A White Elephant party does require a little bit of planning. A budget must be set for each of the gifts and some guidelines should be set around what is appropriate for your office. However, they can be a great way to bond with your colleagues and have a little bit of fun. Just make sure that no one buys a $400 iPod Video or things could get a little awkward. ;)
Quick! Who can fix a paper jam the fastest? Who can race through the office while carrying a 5 gallon water jug? Who can fit the most M&Ms in their mouth? An office olympics party is a great way to play some games and blow off some steam with your coworkers. You can even add general office awards like one for who makes the best coffee or who is the best dressed. It may seem silly but if you have the budget you can even get trophies and have an awards ceremony.
After months apart, while distancing may still be the new normal, food will always be a way to bring people together.
Re-open with individually-wrapped and buffet style lunches for your team.
While potlucks can seem enticing because everyone gets introduced to everyone else’s favorite foods, it can be a lot of pressure to place on your team and there is potential for someone’s feelings to get hurt if their dish is unpopular.
You might be the one in charge of planning but you should always ask your team for their opinion on activities, theme and refreshments. You wouldn’t want to bring a karaoke machine out for folks who aren’t going to be excited to participate.
If you are ordering any food or drinks for your event, you have to consider that people might have a larger appetite than you expected. CaterCow recommends ordering for 10-15% higher than your headcount if your budget allows to ensure that there is enough for everyone. It’s highly unlikely that any food goes to waste and if there are any leftovers, be sure to have some to-go containers so that your team can bring some home.
Just because happy hours are traditionally associated with alcohol doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure to provide beer or liquor. Make-your-own smoothie bars or milkshake bars are a fun, sober alternative that can be just as rewarding an experience! And moving away from beverages altogether - frozen yogurt or build-your-own ice cream sundaes are always a hit!
When it comes to office safety, encouraging people to be responsible is key especially if alcohol is involved. Show your guests that you care by providing Uber or Lyft vouchers, a shuttle bus or just encouraging people to carpool with designated drivers, you can help make a difference.
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