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Halloween at Work: Plan for a Safe Celebration

(posted: October 5th, 2015)

Halloween at work


Hosting a Halloween party in your workplace is fun, a change of pace, and can be great morale builder.

Depending on the activities you include, if any, you can even make a great team building experience out of it, without overtly labelling it as such.

Planned thoughtfully, Halloween celebrations at work are a wonderful way to show your employees you care.

But there are pitfalls and dangers, too.

Keep Halloween Celebrations Safe & Avoid Liability

All participation in workplace Halloween parties should be voluntary, and best practices and expectations should be communicated clearly to all employees beforehand. Keep in mind that employees will need time to plan and create their costumes, so give them the guidelines early. Consider sending announcements and guidelines via email, posting them to the company intranet or other internal communication platform, and posting physical copies in break rooms or other gathering spaces. If it makes sense in your workplace, attach a copy to the next paycheck.

Halloween Costumes in the Workplace

If costumes don't compromise safety in your workplace, it's great to encourage the fun and lively engagement that Halloween dress up can bring. It's important to set guidelines for keeping costumes in good taste at work, though, since people can get carried away and forget that what is entertaining to them may be offensive to others. It's best to remind employees to choose costumes that are in good taste!

Some of what you may want to have in your guidelines are examples of what types of costumes are not acceptable, and then some examples of tasteful choices. Be as specific as is necessary for your particular culture; being detailed and specific in your guidelines prevents confusion.

Avoid:

  • skimpy, revealing costumes
  • religious themes (coming as the Pope, Jesus, or Mohammed is not a good idea)
  • political themes (political parties, current political figures, etc.)
  • violent costumes and props (guns and knives, ski masks, etc.)
  • costumes that make reference to a minority group or nationality (black face, turbans, etc.)

Encourage costume creativity, and restore excitement that may have been tempered by the "not okay" list by offering suggestions of costume types or categories that are acceptable.

Some good costume themes or categories include:

  • current movie characters
  • classics (ghosts, pirates & witches)
  • historical figures (Abraham Lincoln, Florence Nightingale)
  • storybook, fairy tale or cartoon characters (the Big, Bad Wolf, Cinderella, Mickey Mouse, etc.)
  • workplace-specific themes (a 3-hole punch, a paper clip, or the boss)

Of course, keep in mind your workplace, your culture, and your customers. A Grim Reaper costume might be a poor choice in a health care setting!

Encourage Management to Dress Up

According to Glassdoor, 29% of employees hope their boss will dress up for Halloween. The office Halloween party can be a good way to improve relations between management and staff, so consider asking senior staff and leaders to dress up. It still needs to be optional, but you can make the case that it could be a good leadership move on their part, and that they would be doing a good deed for company morale.

Sexual Harassment/Hostile Workplace

Your costume guidelines will go a long way to preventing hostile workplace concerns. Remind people that party behavior needs to remain courteous and appropriate, and that sexual harassment rules apply, same as always. If it's appropriate in your workplace, do a general review in your guidelines.

Alcohol

It may be best to limit or even exclude alcohol from the party. This will depend to some extent on your company's culture, but remember that drunk employees can be a danger to themselves and others. If you do serve alcohol, limit how much and make sure to have alternate transportation options available.

Foster Fun and Build Engagement

Provide Food!

Free candy is great, but even better would be a Halloween breakfast or lunch, or snack break. If it makes sense for your culture, provide some of the treats and food, but have a potluck as well and encourage creativity with Halloween-themed dishes.

Decorating Contests

Have teams or workgroups work together to decorate their cubicles or offices. Consider assigning themes, and create different prize categories.

Jack-o-Lantern Contest

Provide pumpkins and markers and have awards for Scariest Jack-o-Lantern, Funniest, Craziest, Most Creative, etc. It's probably not a good idea from an accident and liability standpoint to have a pumpkin carving contest, but drawing fun, funny or scary Jack-o-Lanterns can be just as fun. You may want to have employees work in teams of two or three, to make it more collaborative and fun, and, incidentally, team-building.

Celebrating Halloween in your workplace can be a wonderful way to increase employee morale, build team and collaboration skills, and even promote creativity and innovation thinking. Having some fun and camaraderie can break up the monotony and tension of the regular workday. It's definitely worth doing, as long as you are sensitive to employee concerns and follow clear best practices and guidelines.

We're here to help! Contact us with your questions or concerns about hosting a workplace Halloween party.

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