Office Parties Back, But on a Budget

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The office party is expected to give more workplaces across America a chance to embarrass themselves this holiday season, but don’t break out the party favors just yet.

According to an informal survey conducted by the global outplacement and consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, 68% of businesses are planning festivities this year, up from 62% a year prior. But of those companies, only 6% intend to spend more on festivities than they did last year.

“We are at a precarious stage in the recovery, where some companies are feeling it more than others,” John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said in the press release. “New York City, in general, is rebounding faster than many other major cities, so parties there might be pretty extravagant. Tech companies on the West Coast are also doing well. But, overall, we are probably still a year or more away from a widespread return to the types of festivities held prior to the recession.”

Most of the survey’s nearly 100 participants (all human resources professionals) say it’s hard to “justify the expense of a party when most we’re fighting to keep people’s jobs,” as one New York executive noted.

The fear of losing one’s job certainly remains palpable among American workers, as more employees are cutting back not only on spending, but on vacations and down time as well. As an example, 59% of American workers checked their company’s e-mail during Thanksgiving day last week. 

“Some employees would just as soon skip the holiday party in favor of an extra paid vacation day or a little extra money in their year-end paycheck,” Challenger added.  

In light of these concerns, more companies will decidedly spend much less on parties this year. The survey found that about 53% of companies will hold their parties at the office, while 54% of companies will leave out spouses and significant others from the gathering. Other companies, meanwhile, are finding more creative ways to eschew the office party, such as the North American unit of one Swedish industrial parts manufacturer that bestowed its employees with $100 gift cards and a half-day to go shopping.

So what do you think, Main Street? Would you rather have an office party, or should companies keep their pocketbooks closed and focus on saving instead?

Organizing your office's holiday gathering this year? MainStreet has eight helpful tips for throwing a great office party.

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