Work parties can be like mandatory fun. In many cases, more employees would choose to have the extra time with their families, to do errands, or just rest instead of spending more hours with co-workers.

And in many cases, parties can be expensive and counter-productive for employers. Instead of missing the mark with what should be a happy celebration, follow these simple steps to set the stage for a fun time.

What's the point?

This may sound obvious, but often the end-of-year party morphs a little every year so that after a few years, the original intent of the engagement is forgotten. Thus, before going too far down the party path, confirm the reason for the celebration.

An opportunity for all employees to unwind and have fun together is different than creating an opportunity for a gift exchange, which is different than an employee recognition event. Get clear on the point.

While it may not sound very celebratory, it is critical to get clear on the purpose and goals of the party. Doing so ensures communication about the party is clear; allows party activities to be aligned with goals; and helps leaders set the right tone in advance of the event. Employees then know what to expect and ideally everyone leaves having understood the intended message.

Littering and…?

A great way to avoid the problems associated with traditional holiday parties is to avoid having a traditional holiday party.

Consider a breakfast event with an employee recognition component. Or give teams paid time away from the office to volunteer somewhere together. Many offices are foregoing traditional events and instead hosting gatherings at active venues like adult arcades, bowling alleys, and arts events.

However, if the company will host an after-hours party and alcohol will be served or consumed at the event, then some thoughtful planning can help avoid any associated problems.

For example, consider providing drink tickets, hiring a bartender and/or closing the bar early to limit the amount of consumption. Inviting families may also help keep the tone of the party more mellow. And, providing options for transportation in case anyone does overconsume benefits everyone.

Other ways to minimize excessive drinking in advance of the event include sending out an email before the event with a reminder of appropriate behavior for all employees. If there are workplace policies about drug or alcohol use, reiterate them to all staff. Finally, if marijuana is legal where the event is being held, consider addressing guidelines around use prior to the event.

Reality check

Regardless of the type of holiday party, managers at all levels must remember to set the example for appropriate conduct. Unwinding is not synonymous with unprofessional.

It is possible to relax without compromising professionalism. Again, while it may sound obvious, managers and other leaders are often the biggest perpetrators of inappropriate behavior at office parties. When any moment can be recorded and posted to social media instantly, it is critical that managers remember they have an obligation to the company to exercise good judgment.

The key to a successful holiday party is to examine the true purpose and goals of the gathering, then align the event with the intent and clearly communicate expectations to everyone.