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Halloween may be the spookiest time of the year, but it doesn’t have to be frightening for HR professionals. Organizations can plan a fun event that is work-appropriate and accessible to all employees.
An office-based scavenger hunt is the favorite Halloween celebration to date for one company. The HR director remembers the scavenger hunt clues were Halloween-themed riddles and puzzles, and some employees dressed up and hid in broom closets to scare people. The scavenger hunt lasted 20 to 30 minutes, and the prize was a giant pumpkin head full of candy and a $100 gift card to Starbucks.
Any Halloween event—whether in-person or virtual—should be voluntary. With that in mind, these tips and pieces of advice can help your group plan an event employees enjoy.
No court has ever ruled that a “Halloween defense” applies to a business facing a misconduct charge, so it’s necessary to provide guidelines for what costumes and conduct are and aren’t appropriate.
In today’s fraught political environment, even masks depicting our national leaders (of either party) are inadvisable costume choices, especially if one wishes to remain on good terms with co-workers. Employees should also refrain from sharing pics [over e-mail] of themselves in a questionable get-up. One quickly loses control over who sees them—ultimately leading to HR issues.
Keep it simple when reminding staff about costumes, but there is a tendency to over-complicate the message. A lengthy manifesto outlining what costumes are appropriate versus which are not, will likely go unread.
Employees don’t have the attention span to read a lengthy e-mail like that. The better approach is to let your employees know that Halloween costumes are fine, so long as they don’t violate the spirit or letter of your company dress code.
At a company in Indiana, they are planning to resume the company’s long-standing dress-up tradition. The company set a COVID-19-related theme for Halloween this year. Staff members choosing to dress up must incorporate a mask into the costume. Remote employees have received special Zoom invitations to join in from home and are also encouraged to dress up.
In the age of Zoom, it’s easy to involve remote workers in in-office events. Last year, the company encouraged remote employees to adopt spooky Halloween-themed backgrounds for Zoom calls, and that is continuing into this year.
Remote employees can decorate their home office with Halloween stuff, but the company also encourages them to use digital Halloween backgrounds for calls rather than the typical blurred background.
Events involving collaboration and teamwork provide the most employee engagement. Eliciting employees’ ideas for Halloween-themed advertising, packaging or window displays, or planning an outdoor scavenger hunt with clues related to the company’s history or products and services are often a hit.
It is prudent to avoid activities that include religious elements and anything overly terrifying. Stay away from contests that involve physical contact, such as mummifying co-workers in toilet paper, as doing so can create potential COVID-19 as well as definite inappropriate conduct risks.
Dressing up is the first idea that comes to mind for Halloween celebrations, but the holiday is ideal for unique, creative themes. This year, a digital marketing agency is hosting weekly remote watch parties of Halloween episodes of iconic TV shows. The company also mailed acrylic paint markers to staff and encouraged them to paint a pumpkin and share their creations in Slack.
The company chose TV shows instead of movies because they’re shorter and more digestible. Employees can pop into the watch party around lunch, and it’s a fun time without distracting too much from work. They are also leaving space in the Friday companywide video call on Oct. 29 so employees can show off costumes.
Last year when business operations went fully remote, another company replaced its traditional costume dress-up with a “Crazy Hat” party. Employees came up with unique hat ideas showcased in a virtual event. This year the company is hosting a “Hocus Pocus”-themed event in which the remote employees can connect over Zoom or Skype.
Seasonal office parties, complete with decorations and costumes, can be a great opportunity for employee engagement, communication, team building and simply having fun with co-workers.
However, we should recognize that things can go awry and people may have other concerns that will need to be addressed. Not all employees want to participate in decorating the office, wearing a costume or attending a party, or want to deal with decorations, costumes and behaviors that are inappropriate.
As leaders, we need to maintain professionalism in the office, even during Halloween. Workplace rules and dress code policies still need to be enforced. Here are some tips to communicate the organization’s expectations and hold everyone accountable.