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Host a Recovery Friendly Holiday Office Party

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In many workplaces, the Covid-19 pandemic and resulting transitions to hybrid or remote work made in-person holiday parties a thing of the past. For those returning to such annual celebrations, however, the post-pandemic landscape looks different. While more than 22 million Americans live life in recovery from substance use disorders (SUDs), the CDC estimates that as of June 2020, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing substance use as a way of coping with the pandemic and related stressors.

Employers planning holiday gatherings should be mindful that more team members may be struggling with an SUD or trying to cut back on alcohol consumption than in previous years. Making a few simple adjustments can help ensure you create a recovery-friendly holiday office party where everyone feels safe, respected, and included.

Keep reading for 5 tips on how to plan a recovery-friendly holiday office party.

If you or someone you love needs treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders, please call our 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357) or email [email protected]

Recovery friendly holiday office party

Sober-Friendly Holiday Party: 5 Tips        

Roughly 9% or one in ten U.S. adults live life in recovery from an SUD. With these numbers in mind, all employers should consider the likelihood of having individuals who live a sober lifestyle on their team. While some folks choose to self-disclose their recovery status, others may decide to keep this information private. It’s important not to assume an individual’s recovery status or preferred lifestyle choices, but rather to make work-related celebrations as flexible and inclusive as possible.    

Let’s cover a few strategies for planning a holiday party with employees in recovery in mind.   

1. Keep the Focus on Connection

Holiday celebrations can inadvertently center activities like eating and alcohol consumption, especially when there isn’t much else to do. Situations like these can be challenging for folks in recovery who find the presence of alcohol or conversations that center on alcohol triggering. Intentionally scheduling engaging activities like holiday bingo, trivia games, or cookie decorating can help shift the focus to team building and connection instead.

2. Provide Fun Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Work-related gatherings often have non-alcoholic options like water, juice, or soda available. If your company or organization is planning an event where alcohol will be served, however, consider adding fun non-alcoholic beverages like mocktails to the menu to help more team members feel included.   

If your event involves a seated dinner, avoid situations where pre-filled or ready-to-fill wine or champagne glasses are placed at table settings. This places guests in recovery in a situation where they have to intervene to prevent waiters from filling their glasses with alcohol. Ensure that non-alcoholic options are offered at venues where waiters walk around with drink trays.

3. Going Potluck Style? Label it!

Workplace gatherings where employees bring homemade dishes, beverages, and desserts to share with their colleagues can be an excellent way to engage and include team members. From dietary preferences to allergies, there are many reasons to clearly label all food and drink items being offered. It’s just as important to ensure items that contain alcohol are clearly labelled as such. This is especially important for food items like desserts, where it may not be apparent that team members in recovery need to confirm whether a dish contains alcohol.

Holiday office party

4. Host a Daytime Event

Eliminate the question of whether to serve alcohol at your company holiday party by hosting a daytime event at the office, or choosing an activity where it wouldn’t be appropriate, like ice skating. This strategy centers the gathering itself, along with planned activities. Employees who need to get back to work afterwards likely won’t question the absence of alcohol, and employers don’t need to worry about safety concerns around traveling when team members leave the event.

5. Keep it Optional and Flexible

Mandatory gatherings can be difficult for team members who struggle with challenges like social anxiety, or for those who want to avoid certain triggers like alcohol. Keep holiday parties optional and schedule activities in such a way that employees can leave when they need to. This can help ease pressure and facilitate self-care. Trust that your team members know when they’ve reached their limit and provide them with agency over how and when to participate in holiday activities.

Host a Sober Friendly Holiday Office Party

Planning a mindful holiday gathering at work can help boost employee engagement and foster inclusivity. If you do plan on serving alcohol at your holiday office party, consider sending out company-wide messaging as a reminder for folks to drink responsibly, to always put safety first, and to respect the lifestyle choices of those around them. The holidays are an excellent time to remind team members of available mental health resources, and to let employees know how your company or organization will support them if they are struggling with substance use.    

If you or someone you love needs treatment for substance use and co-occurring disorders, please call Gaudenzia’s 24-hour Treatment and Referral HelpLine at 833.976.HELP (4357)

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