Halloween Office Dos and Don’ts

While winter holiday parties are standard in most offices, many businesses have a more take-it-or-leave-it approach to Halloween. According to a recent survey by career site Glassdoor, less than half of offices hold some kind of Halloween celebration, be it a catered meal, costume party or company happy hour. And yet, Glassdoor found that 59% of employees see Halloween parties as a great opportunity to boost morale in the office, and half see it as a way to improve team building. “There’s various reasons why Halloween may be overlooked,” says Scott Dobroski, Glassdoor’s communications manager. Dobroski says a limited budget is the first and foremost reason for passing on Halloween, but HR often doesn’t see the value of hosting a party. “The fourth quarter is the time when HR is wrapping up budgets, planning for hiring – it’s a busy time for HR right now,” says Dobroski. But he and Ricky Eisen, the founder of corporate event company Between the Bread, say it’s easy to boost employee spirits by throwing a Halloween party. Here, they share their dos and don’ts.No. 1: Encourage costumes. While costumes may seem silly, Eisen and Dobroski say dressing up is an easy way to create a fun and festive feeling at the office. “It lifts the mood, because business is so heavy and there are so many challenges and deadlines and objectives to reach. A little bit of levity is always a good thing,” says Eisen, who says she encourages her own staffers to dress up in addition to suggesting to her clients that costumes are a fun idea. No. 2: Make sure employees don’t feel uncomfortable. The possibility of someone crossing over the line when it comes to a costume is enough to frighten HR away from the holiday altogether. Given that half of Glassdoor’s respondents say HR should ask someone to change if they’re dressed up inappropriately, Dobroski suggests addressing the risk ahead of time. “Send out a note one week in advance,” says Dobroski. The letter should indicate that costumes shouldn’t be so over-the-top as to affect normal work responsibilities; it should also make it clear that costumes aren’t required, which may be too much of a burden for busy or cash-strapped staffers. “Make it clear as an employer that it is an optional thing for employees to partake in, no one should feel less than for not partaking in costumes,” says Dobroski.No. 3: Consider letting employees leave early. Especially in an office where employees have children who are of trick-or-treating age, leaving early may be seen as the best possible celebration of the holiday, says Dobroski. In fact, 63% of Glassdoor respondents say leaving early is better than an employer-hosted party. “Leaving early is certainly one of the most desired celebrations. To get home and take the kids trick-or-treating … nothing replaces life experiences like being with family,” says Dobroski.No. 4: Know your office culture. While Glassdoor’s survey suggests that getting out of the office early is preferred to a party, Eisen says younger offices in millennial-centric fields like technology, marketing or media love to celebrate after-hours at a party coinciding with the end of the workday. “Younger kids are more up for a party,” says Eisen, who says most of the parties she’s catering begin around 5:30 or 6 p.m. and last for approximately three hours within the office.No. 5: Food is always appreciated. Sponsoring a meal or handing out candy can be an inexpensive way to celebrate the holiday and bring a smile to employees’ faces, says Dobroski. “If you have budget available for any festivities around Halloween, food will always bring people out of their cubes and away from their desks. It provides a chance for people to talk about something other than work. For example, if you know a coworker who has kids, ask them what costume their kids picked out this year,” wrote Glassdoor’s Human Resources and Talent Acquisition Expert Amanda Lachapelle in a company blog post. No. 6: Consider allowing alcohol. While it’s not going to be welcome at all businesses, for Eisen, alcohol at office parties is a “must-have” for creating a festive environment. “I don’t think there’s any point in having a celebration without alcohol. That’s our environment, and it doesn’t have to be spirits – it can be wine or beer,” says Eisen.  She says in this tough economy, few employees will be tempted to overdo it and risk their jobs. As a result, serving alcohol in an appropriate setting can help employees bond without creating a messy situation. On the topic of alcohol, Dobroski says it’s yet another situation where business owners or HR personnel really need to have their fingers on the pulse of the company. “There are certainly concerns and liabilities when alcohol is involved, so you just need to figure out what you’re going to do and if alcohol is a part of that,” says Dobroski. “Do you work at a small startup and Halloween is a big happy hour after work? Then it may be appropriate to have a drink at 6 p.m. But if it’s a big corporation and you’re inviting families in for a costume celebration, alcohol may not be the best option,” he says.