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It's quickly approaching summertime, and there's nothing more fun than to throw off the shackles of the office for a day and enjoy the outdoors at the company picnic. (Attendance is mandatory; fun is negotiable.)
Of course, when you bring people into the great outdoors, things will happen. Poison ivy will happen. Injuries will happen. And if there's going to be alcohol at the picnic, well ... look out. Here are some tips for ensuring that your company outing has the least amount of drama possible.
1. Make sure employees know the rules
Out-of-the-office activities can be a great source of gossip and lawsuits. Emphasize that, while the company picnic is a voluntary activity, all the same rules apply there as they do at the office. That means no harassment and no doing anything at the picnic you wouldn't want to be caught doing at work.
2. Cut down on the booze
Your employees don't have to be teetotalers at the company picnic, but too much alcohol naturally leads to bad decisions and worse results. If you're going to serve alcohol at the company picnic, have a dedicated bar and emphasize that employees can't bring their own alcohol to the party. Drink tickets are a good way to control alcohol consumption; two per employee should work, and if anyone needs more after that, they can pay for it themselves. (Don't forget that local liquor laws might require a professional bartender or someone with the appropriate license.)
3. Be inclusive
Your company probably has a mix of young, hip, single people without kids and older, married people with kids. The activities for each group isn't necessarily appropriate for the other, so make sure you have activities for kids as well as activities for younger employees. Could you ban kids? Sure -- but you'd alienate all the employees with kids who also want to enjoy a day at the park. (On the other hand, if your picnic is during work hours, it's easier to avoid kids than if you have the picnic on a weekend.)
4. Where's the beef?
It's not a company picnic without a barbecue, but of course not everyone eats meat. If you're providing food (which you should -- potlucks can get onerous for the employees), make sure you have enough food to satisfy a variety of diets. While there's nothing illegal about alienating vegetarians, we want to keep the picnic drama-free, not just lawful. So don't forget the tofu and portabella mushrooms.
5. Have fun
The day is for you, too, you know. If you've planned everything to minimize the chance of employees getting drunk or falling in the lake, then sit back and relax. And you especially don't want to go around policing everybody. The legal department already has a bad reputation for saying "no" all the time.