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Hosting a safe holiday gathering

The holidays are not only a time to celebrate with family and friends; it's also a time to gather and celebrate with business colleagues, too. But in the COVID era, many business leaders are wondering: Is it safe to host a holiday office party this year? Here's some information that can help you decide what to do this year:

Limit the number of people you invite

Keep your gathering small so everyone can easily abide by social distancing guidelines. In addition, infectious disease experts advise that you must also factor in the size of your event space. Do your research on state and local government sites to be sure you're abiding by capacity and social distancing guidelines to keep everyone safe.

Make it optional

Some people are at higher risk for COVID, like senior citizens and those with conditions such as asthma. To avoid anyone feeling uncomfortable, make attendance optional. Don't forget to consider employees who may have a high-risk individual living with them-because no one wants to compromise the health of others.

Think single-serving for food, condiments and drinks

Stay away from communal food options, such as bowls of snacks and sandwich trays, that require guests to use their hands. Instead, consider serv­ing food in individual "take away" boxes or baggies. The same goes for condiments and drinks-offer them up single-serving style. Condiments should be provided in individual packets, while drinks can be served in cans and bottles.

Provide masks and gloves

Anyone serving food or drinks at your gathering should wear masks and gloves. In addition, make sure to have a stash of disposable masks for people to wear after they finish eating, especially if they're within six feet of each other. Keep hand sanitizer available, as well.

Thoroughly disinfect everything

Health experts advise disinfecting all high-touch areas that your guests will access before they arrive, during the party and after they leave. Pay special attention to bathrooms, exposed table­tops, doorknobs and light switches. Be sure you have plenty of hand soap available, as well as hand sanitizer in multiple locations for easy access.

Think about going virtual this year

Depending on your local government mandates, you may need to forgo an in-person party alto­gether and opt to host a virtual happy hour via video meeting. You can even postpone a celebra­tion for later...when health and safety concerns are less of an issue.

Tis the season...for safety first. Unlike years past, a holiday office party or client get together now requires serious forethought and planning. Be sure to use the tips above to help you plan a safe and thoughtful gathering this holiday season. ■

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