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Deck the Halls – The Office Holiday Party is Back

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I started at my first real grown-up job in 2008. Right in the heart of what we now refer to as “the Great Recession.”  I worked at a place that had, at one time, been legendary for its over-the-top, amazing office holiday parties.  Old timers loved to regale us kids with tales of the glory days when the champaign flowed and the boss hired a band to play at the event.  They said they were given generous Christmas bonuses and wore their formal clothes to the once-a-year event.  Well, by the time I got there, those days were gone.  The once fancy evening event had been transformed into a lunchtime potluck. Instead of a live band, we had a cd player with one disc of Christmas music.  Instead of Christmas bonuses, we were all given coasters…Times had changed.

I don’t begrudge my previous employer for phasing out the lavish holiday parties.  When things get tough, tough decisions have to be made and obviously employees would rather lose a holiday party than have someone lose a job.  This phenomenon was not isolated to my little office.  When the economy started stalling out in 2007, corporate America quickly axed the office holiday party.  In 2010, Bloomberg BusinessWeek reported that only 79% of companies were having holiday events at all.  This is the lowest percentage in the three decades of polling on the issue.  27% of companies that did have events stated that their parties would be more modest than previous years.  Challenger, Gray & Christmas, an outplacement firm, had even less pleasant numbers – reporting that only 68% of firms held parties in 2011.   During the recession, employers faced a tricky situation – canceling parties could damage morale but not as much as going through with a party while simultaneously reducing hours, cutting benefits, etc.  Even those businesses that were doing well had to consider the optics of throwing an opulent when so much of the country was suffering.

Well, while the economy has been slow to rebound, it looks like the holiday party has gained some momentum.  Challenger, Gray & Christmas recently reported that 83 % of firms will be holding holiday parties.  This is up 15% in one year!  17% of those who held parties previously are saying they plan to budget more money for this year’s party! This is certainly a good sign for things to come!  Perhaps businesses are slow to hire at the pace we would like, but they certainly seem to be interested in boosting morale!

I had lunch with an old friend the other day.  He currently works where I had that first job mentioned above.  He’s enjoying it and shared with me that they recently had their Holiday Party at a nice restaurant.  It wasn’t terribly sumptuous or over the top, but it was fun and meant a lot to a group that has been asked to do more with less for the past several years.  

So, this holiday season, don’t just concentrate on how nice it will be to spend time with friends and family, but also the opportunity to relax with your coworkers and share some holiday cheer.  We may still be a long way from the opulent parties of yesteryear, but we’ve also improved a great deal from a few stale cookies in the conference room and some ugly sweaters.  Now, don’t throw out the sweater just yet, but wear it with a smile and enjoy this trend of bigger and better (but still reasonable) parties!  Maybe this is the perfect year to focus on something cozy and bright…something like…

Christmas Lights Lodge


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