American adults are spending record amounts on Halloween costumes, so why not let them wear them to work, says one workplace expert, who adds that any short-term disruption to the workday will pay off in long-term gains in morale, loyalty and, yes, even productivity.

“With Halloween falling on a Monday, many workers will want to wear their costumes to the office, if for no other reason than to extend the life of what, for many, is a costly purchase. While some employers might ban costumes out of safety concerns, others may ban them out of the belief that they will cause too much of a distraction. However, trying to squash the Halloween spirit could ultimately backfire,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to projections from the National Retail Federation, nearly 50 percent of American adults 18 and older plan to dress up for Halloween, collectively spending a record $1.54 billion on their costumes. That is considerably more than the $1.17 billion that will be spent on children’s costumes.

“Obviously, every workplace has to determine whether allowing costumes is a good idea, based on the company culture, daily business operations and the potential for problems. If there is no compelling reason to prohibit costumes, then employers have nothing to lose by allowing workers to wear them to the office. And, some will probably find that allowing costumes benefits the bottom line,” said Challenger.

“The primary benefit is increased morale. Multiple studies have shown that happy employees are more engaged and less likely to leave. Lower turnover means lower costs associated with recruiting and training. Happy employees are also more productive and more likely to deliver a positive customer experience.

“Some companies may want to consider going beyond simply allowing costumes and actually encourage employees to wear them. They could host a costume party during lunch or after hours. Department heads could organize a costume parade and give out small awards for the best ones. There are a number of things employers could to embrace this opportunity for morale building,” said Challenger.

Challenger added that allowing costumes in the workplace does not come without pitfalls.
“Employers may want to issue some guidelines, but employees should also be responsible enough to use common sense when it comes to deciding on a costume.”

Challenger offered the following guidelines:

  • Safety first. If you are working with heavy machinery, it may be best to not wear a costume, but certainly don’t wear anything that might get caught in moving parts or interferes with the safe operation of the equipment.
  • Don’t be offensive. Costumes that depict others’ culture, race, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, or gender should be considered off limits.
  • Leave the sexy at home. Avoid any costumes with the word “sexy” in front of it: sexy nurse, sexy kitty, sexy police officer, sexy vampire, etc. This goes for both men and women.
  • Lose the weapons. Even if a weapon is integral to your costume, leave it at home. The threat of workplace violence is far too real to take it lightly.
  • No clowning around. This year, in particular, perhaps it is best to not dress as a creepy clown.