What are Harry Potter, Darth Vader, Cleopatra, Elvis, and Tinkerbell all doing in the same office? They are participating in workplace Halloween celebrations, which can scare up business profits and productivity by increasing employee morale.
Businesses spend thousands of dollars every year on ways to make their employees happier and more satisfied with their jobs. For a small expenditure on candy, decorations, and prizes for best costumes, Halloween becomes a human resources bonanza. It gives employees an opportunity to defuse tension, take a well-earned break, and have some fun at work with co-workers and customers.
"The most important part of Halloween celebrations is not the specific events associated with the holiday, but the atmosphere of playfulness it inspires in workplaces," says Gail Howerton, head of Fun*cilitators, an organizational development firm in Fredericksburg, Va. "The rapport among workers as they don costumes, compete in contests, or play games breaks down barriers and injects more humanity into the workplace. People remember these experiences. It's a continuation of a feeling you want in the workplace all year long."
Dressing up for Halloween at work is a rapidly growing trend. According to a recent Human Resource Management Benefits Survey, more than one-third of employers reported they offered in-house Halloween celebrations. Most agreed that the celebrations visibly increased employee morale, which increased performance, productivity, and created a more positive attitude toward work.
"Sometimes it's the little things that make a difference with employees," says Jan Stolzenberg, a human resources manager for HARCO Laboratories, a manufacturer of aerospace equipment in Branford, Conn. "A little break in the routine, such as decorating the cafeteria for a holiday, is a nice change," she says.
Whether you come up with a theme for your Halloween celebrations (outer space, the Wild West, famous movie stars) or you just go with a general "spooky" vibe, here are some tips that can help put your employees in the mood to participate:
- Give employees an opportunity to help plan the celebration.
- Make sure to send out a reminder of when the party will be and what they should prepare beforehand (for example, their costumes).
- Let partygoers know if they need to bring food and drink or if everything will be provided.
- Have some basic extra costumes or masks on hand, in case someone shows up in something inappropriate or doesn't have a costume.
- Hold the event during office hours so employees don't feel obligated to stay past their normal workday, which will undo all the morale-boosting your party is supposed to provide in the first place.
Even though it's considered a time to "break the rules," make sure people understand that the workplace Halloween party should still be suitable for a business environment. This means steering clear of costumes that might be offensive or too revealing. And keep in mind that some of employees may object to Halloween celebrations for religious reasons, so everyone should be told that participation is voluntary.