5 HR Tips for Office Halloween Parties

If you’re in the U.S. or Canada, chances are your office is gearing up for Halloween. (If you’re in Australia, which famously doesn’t celebrate the holiday, there’s still time to plan a visit if you’re dying to get your ghoulish fix of gory haunted houses and spook-tastic costumes!) Here’s a few ideas, as well as some cautionary tales, for making Halloween fun, safe, and office-appropriate.

5 HR Tips for Office Halloween Parties

1. Play it safe when choosing costumes.

If your office encourages dressing up, get in the spirit! Good costume choices are enduringly funny (a mime and hippie pair = “peace and quiet”), charmingly vintage (a group dressed as Sgt-Pepper-era Beatles), or classically traditional (witches, angels, pirates, superheros). Stay away from things that are overly salacious (i.e. no “sexy” anything, no I Dream of Jeannie bare-midriff ensembles), politically charged, religiously offensive, unsafe, or crude. If you can’t wear a costume per se, consider some kind of spirited, removable accessory like a hat, cape, or jewelry.

HR Tip: When announcing the festivities, remind employees that the usual dress code will remain in effect, or outline special dress rules for the occasion. If an employee does come to work in something inappropriate, unsafe or offensive, generally the best advice is for HR to take him or her aside privately and ask that he or she change.

2. Be wary of group-think.

Getting together a large group, such as “everyone in accounting,” for an elaborate costume (the cast of Gilligan’s Island, characters from Alice in Wonderland, etc.) can be a good idea in theory, but depends on every group member having equal time and dedication to the project. Better choices may be to choose a “theme” that everyone can follow without having to make or buy a specific outfit (like “60’s flower children”) or a very, very simple outfit that one person is willing to coordinate the acquisition of signature pieces for (cast of Star Trek, Where’s Waldo, etc.).

3. Keep decorations contained and restrained.

Unless absolutely everyone in the office or workplace is on board the Halloween train, and no out-of-office personnel or guests will be visiting, it’s best to keep your decorations under control, and minimal in public spaces. This means no shrieking ghoul statuettes in the lobby, cobwebs stretched over the elevator doors, fog machines, or other potentially irritating or frightening displays. If you’ve ever tried to conduct a sensitive client meeting next to a cackling toy witch, you know that once is too many times.

4. Treats – not tricks.

Halloween isn’t just about costumes – having an office breakfast, lunch, or potluck can be a great way to be festive without going overboard. Sending around some treat ideas in advance can encourage creative and fun contributions. Having an office-to-office trick-or-treat or parade for your employee’s children (or other children in your workspace) is a fun way to make sure everyone gets to participate in the festivities, no matter what their age, without demanding a lot of time, involvement or advance planning.

5. Be accepting of nonparticipants.

Halloween can be a fun, family-oriented way to encourage employee satisfaction and enthusiasm (which can boost productivity and improve engagement), but it’s not for everyone. If it’s not your thing, be gracious about other people’s excitement; conversely, if your coworkers aren’t “in the spirit” of things, be respectful of their decision not to participate.

HR Tip: It is vital to ensure that employees understand that any office celebration is entirely voluntary, and that it will be expected that everyone respect employees who choose not to celebrate. In addition to being generally good manners, this ensures protection for employees whose religious and spiritual believes may prohibit Halloween celebrations.

StarGarden understands that HR is about far more than payroll and benefits – it’s the hub of workplace culture, and essential to happy employees and effective human capital management (HCM). Our integrated HR & payroll systems also streamline your personnel management and help take the stress out of end-of-year reporting. If you’re interested in finding out what StarGarden can do to help streamline your HR software, contact us or visit us at www.stargarden.com today.

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