Holiday office party back in style
By Stephanie Armour
Uncork the champagne. Holiday parties are in style again.
Promising economic signs mean employers are willing to spend once more on year-end parties. It's a reversal from recent years. The partying spirit is also returning even though many companies are holding back on costlier outlays, such as bonuses and raises.
Ninety-five percent of companies are having some type of holiday celebration this year, according to a poll by Battalia Winston International. That's up from 83 percent two years ago. "It's a way to thank people for what was a pretty challenging year," says Ken Abosch, a business leader at Hewitt Associates.
Some of what's being planned:
- Atlanta-based HomeBanc spent about $350,000 last year on two types of holiday parties; this year, they're spending about $500,000. The parties are business-building and employee-relations tools. One type of party involves get-togethers for business partners and contacts, such as Realtors and politicians. For employees, there are luncheons and breakfasts in 11 cities. At these holiday meals, it's the executives who don aprons and serve the workers.
- Last year, DVC Worldwide, a 1,300-employee marketing services company based in Morristown, N.J., held an on-site party. This year, the bash was at a hotel and featured a band and raffle tickets for prizes including a corner office for a year. The winner: Jessica Varga, 23, an assistant account executive who had started as an intern in July 2002. "I'm so excited," Varga says. "I'll be in a private office with a window view."
While more employers are partying, they're not returning to the lavish get-togethers of the dot-com era. The average amount a company will spend for a holiday party is about $39,000, down from $41,000 last year, according to Hewitt Associates.
Some go all out. The more than 60 employees at Phoenix builder Cachet Homes are flown to Disneyland for the day. But some business owners say even small events can have a big impact on employee motivation and turnover. John Collins, founder of East Windsor, Conn.-based Hartford Toner & Cartridge, throws two holiday parties, shutting down the office, giving out cash bonuses of up to $300 and providing his 11 employees with customized gift baskets.
"It keeps everybody's attitude up," Collins says. "Giving back to them, it's important."