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HALLOWEEN IN THE WORKPLACE

October 30, 2012

Although Halloween may turn out to be a soaked out event for much of the U.S. East Coast suffering from the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, the holiday arrives tomorrow (Wednesday, October 31st), for those of us not affected by the big storm events. Halloween is a mix of ancient Celtic practices, Catholic and Roman religious rituals and European folk traditions that blended together over time to create the holiday we know today with trick-or-treating, attending costume parties, carving jack-o’-lanterns, haunted attractions, telling scary stories and watching horror movies.. Straddling the line between fall and winter, plenty and paucity and life and death, Halloween is a time of celebration and superstition.

Although Halloween is not a holiday observed as one with time off in the workplace, it has certainly become popular for purposes of improving workplace motivation. According to survey data released in 2007 by Vault.com Inc., 37% of employees say they celebrate the holiday with their co-workers and 27% dress up in costume. It has also been stated that
Halloween is the second most popular holiday after Christmas and that celebrating it in the workplace “appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture.”

Of course, on-the-job masquerades are more appropriate for some workplaces than others. For some organizations, such as manufacturers or equipment handlers, costumes could
jeopardize safety. Other organizations such as hospitals don’t want to let professionalism slip for even a day, fearing that masks or costumes might alarm patients. And a local bank has two sensible rules: no masks and no toy weapons.

If you’re thinking about a Halloween bash at work this year, there are lots of great ideas all over the place for celebrating that include decorating the workplace, baking Halloween-themed cookies and desserts, and holding a costume and pumpkin carving contests.  However, here are a few tips that you want to be sure to also consider if it’s a workplace celebration.

  1.  Make it Optional. Make sure that you clearly inform your employees that Halloween festivities including costume wearing are optional and not required. If any employee complains about the festivities because of religious beliefs, make sure they understand that it’s optional. If they really find it offensive, recommend to them that they take
    either a vacation day or unpaid one day leave.
  2. No Alcohol on Company Property. We’re pretty sure you already know this. However, let us re-explain that drinking on company premises is always a bad idea due to such things as: a premises liability lawsuit when a guest falls on your property or premises after having a few too many drinks, a workers’ compensation claim when an employee injures
    themselves after drinking too much, and a sexual harassment claim when someone says and does something stupid while they are drinking.
  3. Set Some Guidelines on Costume Wearing. Although one would like to think that we all have “common-sense” and decent judgment, many people don’t. It may be a good idea to remind people that it’s a company party and costumes such as exaggerated body parts, body revealing,  and anything political, religious or ethnic are probably not a good idea.

Especially for these days when our lives are fraught with all sorts of economic problems, Halloween can be a great time for company-related activities for building camaraderie, teamwork and alleviating workplace stress. However, plan it wisely. HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

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