Why End-of-the-Year Parties (Bonenkai) Are Important: 5 Reasons Why Celebrating With Your Team Actually Matters

End-of-the-year parties have become a yearly tradition for many teams and companies. But we sometimes forget how important they actually are. Here we offer some of the underlying reasons why these parties are beneficial for teams, and how to be more intentional about planning them.

It’s that time of the year again. When the air gets chillier, the days get longer, and the winter illuminations go up, it can only mean one thing–the end of the year is coming. And for many, the end of the year itself brings with it a busy schedule of parties and other obligations with friends, family and coworkers.

But have you ever stopped to think about why we do all these end-of-the-year parties?

In our last blog post, we listed some great activities that are both fun and encourage healthier teams that you can do at the end of the year. However, we didn’t really address why teams should do something at the end of year to begin with.

So in this blog post, we wanted to share some of the values that underlie end-of-the-year parties (bonenkai in Japan). And what is the actual purpose of going through all the trouble of planning these events? Because there is an actual purpose, and understanding why (or the multiple reasons why) it is important to have end-of-the-year parties may help your team figure out which kinds of parties are right for them.

In other words, understanding the values behind end-of-the-year parties can help your team become more intentional about them. That means not just choosing an event because it’s what you’ve always done, or because it’s the trendy thing to do, or because it’s what everyone else is doing.

It means choosing an event that fits your needs as a team, your goals, and your values as an organization. 

Hopefully, with the list below, your team will be able to choose and plan end-of-the-year parties that they will truly benefit from.

5 Reasons why end-of-the-year parties matter  

1. Have fun together (and let off some steam) 

The biggest reason to have end-of-the-year parties with your team is to have fun together. Spending quality time enjoying each other’s company isn’t a waste of time, nor is it frivolous. In fact, it’s necessary to make teams stronger and better at working together.

Teams need moments of down-time where they can hang out and get to know each other. This establishes better working relationships and a stronger sense of team camaraderie. Plus, laughter and fun are the best way to create memories that can be shared as part of the team’s culture, and which can stimulate team unity.

So having fun together is a great reason to have an end-of-the-year party, and doing so has a lot of wonderful team building benefits on its own. But having fun can also help reduce stress and anxiety. 

The end of the year can get pretty busy, and there’s a lot of pressure to finish up projects and fill quotas. As a result, taking some time to plan a fun end-of-the-year event can also help team members let off some steam and feel a little less stressed as the year winds down.

If your goal is primarily to have fun, we suggest leaning into it and finding activities that your team will really enjoy. These can be as simple as dinner or drinking parties, but might also include team building activities like Suitcase Mystery (which have team building elements but are overall very fun to play). 

2. Celebrate accomplishments

Another great reason to have end-of-the year parties is to celebrate your accomplishments as a team. When teams celebrate their successes together, they create an incentive to succeed more. And the end of the year provides a natural breakpoint for teams to look back and reflect on what they have done.  

Celebrating accomplishments as a team means looking at the team as a whole, as well as acknowledging the individual accomplishments of team members. This creates a sense of validation and honoring the work that everyone contributes.

But celebrating accomplishments doesn’t necessarily mean that your team has to have excelled spectacularly in the past year. These past few years have been difficult for many teams, so simply celebrating the fact that you got through a difficult period, or adapted in the face of challenges can be enough to motivate your team and acknowledge everyone’s hard work.

However you choose to acknowledge your team’s successes, do so in a way that is motivating and that allows everyone to take part. 

3. Strengthen relationships before the new year

Relationships are the key to teams, and team building. And the thing about relationships is that they need consistent development. End-of-the-year parties therefore provide another good opportunity to solidify relationships. They come at a time when everyone is feeling more festive (even if they are more stressed), and right before everyone goes away on vacation. 

As a  result, many team members are in more of a mood to let loose and really become more open with other coworkers. They may be more inhibited to share feelings or engage in team building activities.

There’s another reason why strengthening relationships at the end of the year is a good idea. As we mentioned above, the holiday period can be a time of a lot of stress, which sometimes has the tendency to fray relationships as well. Thus, it’s overall beneficial for teams to shore up their relationships, and to not leave them in a bad state of affairs before everyone leaves on break. 

Invite Japan’s Online Team Building games, like Okinawa Adventure, as well as its scavenger hunt games are both designed to give teams collaborative experiences and to really engage teams in working together. 

4. Review the lessons you learned from last year

Another reason for end-of-the-year parties is to review and reflect on the lessons that you’ve learned as a team. This is connected in many ways to celebrating successes. However, the distinction is that reflecting on the last year often means acknowledging more of the difficulties and mistakes that you’ve experienced along the way, as well as how you’ve changed and grown.

For example, if you were focused on a particular goal or vision, check in and see how far you’ve come. If you were working on strengthening your team, maybe pick an activity that tests your teamwork skills or communication. 

At the very least, all teams can reflect together and share their memories from the past year. By reviewing what you did and what you learned as a team, you can grow together and teach each other. 

Not all teams will want to be so reflective at their end-of-the-year parties, and that’s ok. All we’re pointing out is that end-of-the-year parties are a good opportunity to get team members to reflect on their collective experiences–while creating new ones. 

5. Introduce new goals or ideas that you want to include for the new year

The last reason why end-of-the-year parties are important is that they allow teams to introduce new goals or ideas that they want to focus on in the coming year. We tend to think of the end-of-the-year as, naturally, being an “ending”. But every ending is also a new beginning.

We all know how it is. We start the new year with lots of new ideas we want to try, but then get bogged down by life and busy schedules. Which is why thinking about new goals at the end of the year could help team members to start thinking about them earlier on.

You can do this in a number of ways. It could mean finding an activity that connects with a specific theme, like “psychological safety” or “resilience”. Or it could mean including this new goal, value, or message in the activity itself or as part of a speech.

But even if you don’t include any specific goal or message for next year, we suggest that you make your end-of-the-year parties forward-looking in some way. By looking towards the future year with your teams, you can get excited about what is yet to come. 

Photo by Kateryna Hliznitsova on Unsplash

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