PhotoIs the company you work throwing a holiday party this year? If so, chances are it'll be better than last year's.

Challenger, Gray & Christmas says its annual survey finds that 80% of companies are planning parties this year, and that just over 21% will be spending more for them.

Chalk it up to a stable economy and rising corporate profits.

After dipping in the last of half of 2015, corporate profits are back above $1.6 trillion, according to government data. “Our survey suggests that employers are ready to spend some of those profits on their workers,” said John A. Challenger, the outplacement consultancy's CEO.

The Challenger survey was conducted in October among a small sampling of approximately 100 human resources executives, representing a variety of industries across the country.

More than 66% of those who responded said they'll be hiring caterers or event planners -- up 4% from last year. Firms are also allowing more guests at their parties: 42.9% will include spouses or family; just 31% did in 2015.

“Company holiday parties are a great way for employers to thank workers for a successful year,” said Challenger. “For employees, it’s a great way to meet and interact with co-workers and managers who are not part of one’s daily routine. If you happen to be attending the holiday party of a spouse or friend, it could be a great opportunity to network.”

Better behave

“In addition to the benefits, however, holiday parties can be fraught with risks, for both employers, employees, and guests,” Challenger warned. “The biggest risk, of course, is related to alcohol consumption.”

In fact, almost 62% of those responding to the survey said their holiday parties would include alcohol, versus 54% who said they would open the bar last year.

“Serving alcohol can make for a more celebratory mood, but it also has pitfalls, especially for employees and their guests. Company parties are not necessarily a time to let loose,” Challenger cautioned.

Just 20% of respondents said that their companies won't be having a party this year, 16% of which said they never do. The percentage of companies not having parties is on par with the percentage of companies not having parties a year ago.

Tips for partiers

OK party animals, here are some guidelines from Challenger for getting the most out of your attendance:

  • Arrive early -- This might be your best opportunity to talk with senior executives while things are still relatively quiet.
  • Work the room -- It's easy to simply socialize with the members of your department, with whom you work with day in and day out. However, you gain if you use this occasion to meet people in other departments. You never know who can help your career.
  • Do NOT over-indulge -- Free booze can quickly lead to excessive drinking. Stay in control. You do not want to do anything that will embarrass you or your employer. Even if your alcohol-induced actions don't get you fired, they could hurt your chances for advancement.
  • Be friendly, but not too friendly -- The company party is not the place to try out your latest pick-up lines. The risk of such behavior being seen as sexual harassment is high.
  • Avoid talking business -- This isn't the time to approach your boss with a new business idea. Save that for Monday morning. Instead, find out about his or her interests outside of the office. Find a connection on a personal level. That connection may help you on Monday when you bring up the new idea and it could help when it comes time for salary reviews.
  • Attend other companies’ parties -- Fifty-two percent of company parties are employees only. If a friend invites you to his or her company party, you should go. It's an opportunity to expand your professional network, which is critical in this era of downsizing and job switching.

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