It’s that time of year! The time of BBQs, pool parties, concerts, outdoor festivals, and social gatherings of all types, including business networking and team building functions. This is the perfect time to show your non-drinking friends and colleagues that they are not only invited to the party but they can feel like they are an integral part of the event without feeling like they are sticking out like a sore thumb. The key is to not only make workplace events less focused on alcohol but to also have options that include something for everyone. 

It’s very easy to opt for the Happy Hour in a box scenario, buy some wine and some beer, maybe some water or soft drinks and you’ve got yourself an easy after work gathering. But is this scenario actually attracting everyone to the party? Or are you excluding a large portion of your population? Reflect on your goals for the company’s gatherings. Is it to build teamwork, get to know each other or break down barriers between departments. Focus on the goals rather than the adult beverages that will be served. With a little bit of planning and forethought, it’s easy to be sensitive to everyone’s needs and create an inclusive environment with tons of great options for drinkers and non-drinkers alike. 

Here are a few ideas to get you thinking outside the box for the traditional Happy Hour. 

1. Focus on the food.

Food always attracts a crowd, so serve food and they will come. We love these options that Sarah Fustine, a Partner of Think Big Partners in Kansas City shared with us: How about a hot chocolate bar in the winter or an ice cream social in the summer? Coffee tasting with a local bean roaster or a fresh juice bar coupled with a food truck or two, yum. One thing we do every month at my coworking space is what I call a member lunch-together where we walk together to a local restaurant to enjoy lunch. Or a simple snack time in the afternoon can do wonders to get people talking in the break room and alleviate the 3 pm slump.

Make it a family affair by planning a company-wide picnic complete with burgers, veggie burgers, and a friendly game of volleyball. Or plan a fun night out at the ballpark watching your favorite hometown team win.

2. Go for movement, motivation, and mindfulness.

There is nothing better than getting the blood pumping to increase productivity and spur creativity. Schedule some time to take a walk around the block together or, better yet, get a team to train for a 5K. Not everyone’s a runner so invite your coworkers to cheer the team on. 

Team sports make the dream works… or something like that. You can also form a company softball team or a bowling league. 

Yoga calms the mind, body, and spirit. Talk to your local yoga studios about holding a regular class on-site at your office, make it just for you and your coworkers or invite people in the surrounding neighborhood to extend your community reach.

What gets your coworkers motivated? How about Tuesday Ted Talk watch parties or changing your scenery by working offsite for the day in a local museum or park.

Maybe your employees need a little self-care to help them de-stress. Chair massages for the win here! Or this would be a good chance to give back by volunteering together to help a local organization. 

3. Arrange for brain-based business bonding.

Panel discussions, motivational speakers, and knowledge sharing are great ways to network. Keep the focus on the speakers and take the focus off the refreshments. Anytime you offer alcohol be sure you offer what Standford calls Equally Attractive Non-Alcoholic Beverages (EANABs) at a one-to-one ratio. Have a signature cocktail? Make sure you have a mocktail version. What will attendees learn that will help them advance their careers or grow their business? Promote that, not the booze. 

4. Get competitive and get creative.

Combine a little movement with a whole lot of competition by gathering up a few friends to form a team in a Corporate Challenge or the summer dodgeball league. Get your creative juices flowing with an arts and crafts night or see who knows the most with a trivia contest. 

All of these ideas can be incorporated throughout your workday or as after work activities. 

Here’s one last tip: Just remember what it was like when you were a child and you didn’t need or want alcohol to have fun and connect with your friends. Having sober-friendly events at work and thinking outside the networking box will benefit everyone, whether you drink or not.