How To

December 16, 2022

How to throw an inclusive holiday social

The Christmas party season is well and truly here — but how do you ensure everyone feels included? Abadesi Osunsade gives her top tips.

Holiday socials are a great way to step away from day to day work and tasks and come together with your team.  They create opportunities to build connections and trust. And, if done right, they can create a sense of safety and belonging — that’s according to Abadesi Osunsade. 

Abadesi knows a thing or two about building inclusive companies. Before going full time on the company she founded — inclusion education platform Hustle Crew — she was the VP of global community and belonging at social media management company Brandwatch.

In our Startup Life newsletter, Abadesi gave us her top tips to ensure everyone can enjoy the festivities. 


Be intentional

Are you having a party for the sake of having a party? Or are you creating the time and space to recognise and celebrate the team’s hard work? To ensure your team feels appreciated, they need to feel like they’ve been thought about. The first step is easy — ask the team what they would like to do. Do they even want an event in the first place? Secondly, you need to organise the event around your most underrepresented member of the team, not for the majority. If the person on your team with the most needs is catered to, everyone on the team will be. For example, if you have fun non alcoholic drinks for the person who doesn’t drink, or vegan food, everyone has an option.

It doesn’t have to be in person

 If your team is distributed around a few main hubs, you may want to run multiple events. Maybe you have an event in London and in Manchester and pay for the team to travel to the closest hub. If your team is more widely spread out, remote events can be just as impactful. Hustle Crew’s social this year is an online mindfulness event, which includes having a self care discussion and guided meditation. There are also online experiences like escape rooms and mocktail making classes.

Don’t centre your social around alcohol

In the UK, pub and drinking culture makes an alcohol centric event an easy choice, but there are many reasons people don’t drink — from religion and recovery, to pregnancy and fitness. Also, some people just don’t like it. So be creative. You can organise a cooking lesson, a craft session, doughnut decorating or a tea tasting session… Check providers like Airbnb for experiences you can book or be inspired by. 

Think about accessibility

There are many forms of disability that need to be accounted for. Firstly, can all your team physically access an event? Then there are hidden disabilities — does your team need a quiet space? Is the planned activity going to be too tiring or overwhelming? Then there are responsibilities — does your team have to get home at a certain time for the school run or other caring duties? Do any of them have to be in work early the next day? 

Remove the competition

Pitting people against one another in a game can feel exclusionary or embarrassing, especially if the activity requires strength or agility — an example that’s gained popularity is axe throwing. It can push introverted colleagues to the margins while extroverted folk take the lead. This defeats the purpose of bringing people together to build relationships. Instead, opt for cooperative events that get people working and playing together. 

On the subject of... throwing an inclusive Xmas party

🛀 Don’t throw a sauna party. It can make women feel uncomfortable. 

🍷 You don’t have to drink. Abadesi asked her LinkedIn connections what their ideal work social would be. From board games to cooking a meal together, here are the replies she received. 

💰 Where are you spending money? It may take longer to research but consider working with brands and organisations that reflect your company’s values. For example, are they sustainable, local or independent?

🧰 The inclusive event toolkit. Deep dive into how to create more inclusive events with this guide by DEI platform Change Catalyst.

Anisah Osman Britton

Anisah Osman Britton is coauthor of Startup Life , a weekly newsletter on what it takes to build a startup. Follow her on X and LinkedIn