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The Changing Shape Of The Office Holiday Party

Written by Ken Gaebler
Published: 12/5/2013

New survey shows that while many companies are holding end-of-the-year parties, workers may be surprised at some of the changes that are reshaping traditional holiday office events.

It's that time of year again. In addition to holiday networking activities, many companies are busy planning other traditional holiday routines--including the ever-popular holiday office party.

Office Holiday Party

The end-of-the-year holiday party is a staple of the U.S. workplace. As a reward for a job well done, many employers roll out the eggnog and host sponsored dinners or other events for their workers in December and January.

But while more employers are hosting holiday parties than during the recession, some business owners remain skittish about the economy and their companies' financial conditions--and it's affecting the shape and scope of holiday parties in some surprising ways.

According to a recent survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), approximately 10% of employers that are hosting holiday events will ask workers to pay for their guests and 45% won't allow guests at all. Another 10% of employers will ask their employees to contribute to the holiday get-together by providing food, decorations or financial contributions.

"I think this shows that companies are still being cautious with their expenditures [and] budgets," said Evren Esen, manager of SHRM's Survey Research Center. "Gatherings are easy to keep low-cost if everyone chips in. The main point is to be together in a fun environment."

Financial constraints are clearly playing a role in this year's holiday party decision-making. Even though the number of companies that eliminated holiday events due to finances decreased from 20% in 2009 to 8% in 2011, 9% of employers have no plans to have any sort of holiday party this year because they are concerned about finances.

Of the companies that will sponsor holiday celebrations in 2013, 42% intend to hold their events during normal business hours. Also, small companies (business with fewer than 500 employees) are more likely to hold holiday events for all workers than larger firms.

"It would be very expensive for large companies to find a venue to accommodate all their employees plus the cost of food and drinks," added Esen. "In those large organizations, I would imagine that parties do take place within departments [and] business units."

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