2021 Holiday Party Survey Report

Published November 12, 2021

For the second holiday season in a pandemic, U.S.-based employers are grappling with how to connect their employees for year-end celebrations. While 26.6% of companies are planning to hold an in-person holiday party, up from the 5.33% who reported they would last year, another 22% are still unsure what their plans will be this year, according to survey results released Friday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

17th Annual Challenger Survey: Year-End Celebrations

The annual survey on holiday party plans, in its 17th year, was conducted online in October and November among 182 human resources executives at companies of various sizes and industries across the country. Of all respondents, 5% will hold their events in-person without any precautions, up from 1.3% in 2020.

Another 7% of respondents reported they were having virtual events this year, down from 17% who reported the same in 2020. 

Meanwhile, 8% are having in-person parties and modifying it due to COVID, up from 4% last year. However, of those who are modifying their events, 62% are still unsure what modifications will occur.

“There appears to be even more uncertainty surrounding company parties this year than last. Most companies simply canceled the event in 2020, likely hoping it would be a one-year issue. Now that we’re entering the second pandemic holiday season, companies want to celebrate and connect their teams, but are not quite sure how to do it,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Overall, 34.6% of companies will not hold an event this year, down from the 54.6% who said they were not holding any kind of event, even virtual, in 2020. Of those, 18% of companies canceled plans specifically due to COVID. Another 3% report they are not having a party due to cost cutting, while 10% report they never hold holiday parties.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Overall, 34.6% of companies will not hold an event this year, down from the 54.6% who said they were not holding any kind of event, even virtual, in 2020. Of those, 18% of companies canceled plans specifically due to COVID. Another 3% report they are not having a party due to cost cutting, while 10% report they never hold holiday parties.

Are Vaccines Required?

Vaccines may be a reason for the comeback of in-person events, though companies are not mandating their workers receive their COVID vaccinations. In the November survey, 34% of respondents were awaiting enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule, while 25% reported they were mandating the vaccine across the board or only for workers to work in-person. This is up significantly from when Challenger first asked respondents this question in a March survey of 201 human resources executives, when just 3% reported mandates.

Vaccines may be a reason for the comeback of in-person events, though companies are not mandating their workers receive their COVID vaccinations.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

Are employees back to work in a brick-and-mortar workspace?

Meanwhile, many companies report they have not brought all their workers back to the office in-person. Though over 26% have returned all employees back to the office, nearly 36% are giving their workers a choice on coming into the office, up from 15% at the end of 2020. Another 13% are making other arrangements, usually hybrid options or location-based decisions.

Many companies report they have not brought all their workers back to the office in-person.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

“Employers are very concerned about an exodus of talent and ability to hire. Many are modifying roles and auditing positions to eliminate roadblocks that may cause hiring managers to miss talent. This includes allowing flexible schedules and remote work,” said Challenger. 

Indeed companies are hiring. Over 68% of companies reported they will be hiring in 2022, up from 28% in 2021. Just 2% are reporting soft demand, down from 21% a year ago. Meanwhile, 12% say they are experiencing a skills shortage, double the 6% who reported this at the end of 2020.

Which statement best describes your company’s hiring outlook for 2022?

Over 68% of companies reported they will be hiring in 2022, up from 28% in 2021. Just 2% are reporting soft demand, down from 21% a year ago. Meanwhile, 12% say they are experiencing a skills shortage, double the 6% who reported this at the end of 2020.

Source: Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. ©

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