13 Things to Consider When Planning an Inclusive Holiday Party

by innovationcentre for Events, INNOVATION CENTRE
13 Things to Consider When Planning an Inclusive Holiday Party

8 minute read  | 1,477 words

A group raises a glass in celebration at Bayview Yards in a cloud of sparkling confetti. The end-of-the-year company holiday party is viewed as an annual opportunity to develop deeper relationships with coworkers, build lasting memories, and have a great time celebrating the accomplishments and hard work of the year.

Historically, in Canada, companies would traditionally decorate a Christmas tree for the annual celebration, organize a gift exchange, and arrange a catered meal with festive drinks for this annual event. Without a doubt, the focus of these events would have been to celebrate Christmas – with little consideration of employees from diverse backgrounds who may not celebrate this holiday.

Today, the model of the stereotypical/traditional corporate Christmas party no longer fits within a modern workplace environment that values diversity and inclusion. Event organizers are now changing with the times to focus on throwing an inclusive holiday event that avoids any specific holiday reference, and this shift in focus is a great way for an organization to show that it honours and respects employees from diverse backgrounds.

Hosting an inclusive work holiday party can boost employee morale and bring everyone together as a team without compromising on the fun of a traditional Christmas party.

Here is a list of 12 things you need to consider when planning a holiday party that emulates the inclusive, welcoming, and diverse values of your organization:


1. Consider the Impact of Unconscious Bias on Corporate Events

The term unconscious bias refers to “when individuals make judgments at least partially influenced by gender, race or other prohibited factors without realizing they have done so.” You may wonder how unconscious bias is relevant when planning a holiday party.

By assuming that holiday parties with overtly Christian themes, focused on Christmas trees and Santa Claus, are acceptable because the majority of people celebrate Christmas, that company is sending a message to employees who might not feel the same. Be mindful of employees’ unique backgrounds and diverse religious practices and strategize to host events where everyone feels included and welcomed.


2. Construct a Menu with Dietary Concerns in Mind

There are many unique approaches you can take to serving food at your holiday party: sit-down formal dinners, buffets, appetizers, food trucks, and even potlucks. However, it is critical to ensure there are options that every team member can enjoy. Plan ahead and check for dietary restrictions within your team. Additionally, some religions prohibit certain foods. Prepare special meals that are gluten-free, vegetarian, or vegan to be respectful of unique dietary needs.


Inclusive washroom facilities at Bayview Yards3. Select a Venue with Inclusive Amenities

It is important not to overlook basic amenities such as inclusive washrooms, mobility, accessibility, etc. when hosting your holiday party. Within your invitation, invite employees with special requirements to email you directly so that you may ensure everyone has an enjoyable experience.

At Bayview Yards, our facility is fully accessible to wheelchairs and other mobility considerations. We proudly offer gender-neutral washroom facilities, change tables, and dedicated space for nursing mothers. Select a venue where everyone feels safe and comfortable.


4. Create a Party Planning Committee

The old saying “two heads are better than one” remains true in the context of party planning. A committee brings a broader perspective and fresh ideas to the table. Invite employees to join in or build a social committee assembled from a diverse group of employees.  Empowering the group to plan the event integrates their unique traditions and ideas into the event. Rather than assembling volunteers that simply enjoy planning events, be sure to encourage committee members that are a true reflection of the company across different levels of seniority, tenure and backgrounds. This helps ensure that all voices have input on the company event.


A view of the Foundry room venue at Bayview Yards, decorated for a celebration.

5. Make your Inclusive Holiday Party Hybrid

Your guests may not be able to attend your holiday event in person because of other obligations, illness, or inability to travel. But that doesn’t mean they have to miss out on the fun! The hybrid event model infuses virtual and in-person elements into one event so that even if guests can’t attend in person, they can tune in virtually. Learn more about hybrid events here.

The programming elements can be built to include both in-person and virtual audiences. For example, part of your event could include activities like trivia or a slideshow that both audiences can enjoy. If this concept is unfamiliar to you, don’t worry – the team at Bayview Yards are experts in hosting elevated hybrid events that your guests will surely remember!


6. Consider a Time and Date that Works for Everyone

Be thoughtful about the scheduling and timing of your event. Refer to a calendar that outlines all major religious holidays to avoid conflicting schedules. If you plan to host your event beyond the typical work hours of employees, some employees may struggle to arrange childcare or juggle other obligations. We recommend hosting an event in January after the busyness of the holidays have subsided. Be diplomatic and create a company-wide poll with various date options to choose from. Also, consider trimming a Friday workday a little shorter to allow the office more time to attend the celebration.


7. Choose Decorations and Themes that Aren’t Specific

It’s good to put a little effort into decorations when hosting a modern holiday party. We recommend adding festive centerpieces to tables, changing up the lighting or adding coloured up-lighting, and having fun with a theme (like Winter Wonderland or candlelight). Ditch the Santa Claus figurines and select motifs that aren’t specific to Christmas or other holidays.


8. Host a Child-Friendly Event

Finding a night to leave the house and celebrate with colleagues can be a challenge when you have young children to care for. The added cost of childcare can deter your guests from attending your event. We recommend either integrating children into the event or booking an additional closed-door space that is kid friendly. Supply colouring books, a movie, games, pizza, and everything needed to keep these little ones entertained while their parents unwind and celebrate.


A musician performs with their guitar in the Foundry room at Bayview Yards.9.  Play Music with an Inclusive Vibe

An amazing playlist, DJ, or local band can set the entire tone of your event. Avoid specific Christmas carols or religious songs, such as Silent Night or Away in a Manager, as much as possible. Keep the music upbeat and inclusive so everyone feels welcome. We recommend hiring a local band or entertainment to perform a live show. This is a great opportunity to support local talent and create a unique experience for your guests to enjoy.


10. Solve Transportation Needs for Your Guests

When planning your event, select an accessible venue. Don’t assume your guests can afford transportation to and from your event. Offering complimentary taxi fare or arranging for carpooling will promote inclusivity and drinking responsibly. By building in the additional cost of transportation within your budget, guests who may have not attended due to the cost of transportation may be more inclined to join in on the fun.

One of the many benefits of hosting an event at Bayview Yards is that our venue is centrally located. Only a block away from the light rail station, your guests can travel throughout the city seamlessly. Guests can easily travel up the parkway and enjoy complimentary parking within our gravel lots. That’s right – parking is free!


A group celebrates, smiling for a photo, holding signs that say cheese, and follow me on Instagram and more. 11.  Focus on the Team, Not the Holiday

An easy approach to an inclusive holiday celebration is to focus on the people you are celebrating – your team. Avoid focusing on a specific occasion or holiday, but rather highlight the accomplishments that individuals and teams have made. Invite your leadership team to address the audience and highlight major milestones that the company has achieved.  Consider hosting an award ceremony with varying points of recognition. Assemble a video presenting a collection of memories and milestones from the previous year. Recognition and appreciation of your team will go a long way in building a healthy corporate culture.


12. Make Attendance Voluntary

You can host your inclusive holiday event with the best intentions; however, guests may still opt not to attend for various reasons. Communicate to your guests that attendance is voluntary, and they aren’t required to come. Invite guests to share pictures from the evening in a shared location for those who missed out to enjoy. They may be more likely to join in the future. Remember to empathize with people during this time of year, as some may not be in the mood to celebrate.


13. Ask Your Guests for Feedback

We encourage you to survey your guests following the event to gauge how successful the event was. Request anonymous, honest feedback and capture this data for the following year. Find out if people liked the event, felt like there was enough variety of food to eat, and collect suggestions for the next event. The journey to creating a workplace culture that promotes inclusivity and diversity is never finished; there is always room for improvement.

Host Your Corporate Holiday Party at Bayview Yards

The Foundry room venue at Bayview Yards

Bayview Yards now offers all-inclusive seasonal event packages to simplify party planning! We’ve partnered with local, small catering companies to create an elevated holiday event experience that is simple to plan.

Our holiday event packages include:

  • Room rental (evening)
  • Full setup
  • Audiovisual services
  • Security

Contact us to secure your event date!

Book your holiday party today!

Contact us now!



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