2015 Holiday Party Survey: 80% Having Parties, Scaling Down

Company holiday parties still appear to be in vogue based on a new survey showing that 80 percent are planning to have one, but there is mounting evidence that more companies are moving away from the extravagant affairs that were common prior to the Great Recession.

In the survey released Monday by global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., just over 80 percent of companies are planning to have a holiday party. About 13 percent of respondents indicated that they are having their first holiday party after one or more years of not holding one.

“With the notable exception of the oil industry, where falling prices have caused many companies to make significant cutbacks, most industries are enjoying the fruits of a growing economy. Most employers want to celebrate and reward their employees for their contribution to continued success,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

The Challenger survey was conducted in November among a small sampling of approximately 75 human resources executives, representing a variety of industries across the country.

“It is difficult to say if the recent shooting in San Bernardino, which occurred during a workplace holiday party, will prompt companies to cancel or alter their party plans. We speculate that most employers will not let fear dictate the decision to move forward with parties. However, we do expect that event, at the very least, to prompt further discussion within the party-planning groups,” said Challenger.

In the Challenger survey, 19 percent of respondents said that their companies would not be having a party this year. Most of these indicated that they never host year-end parties. The percentage of companies not having parties is nearly double the approximately 10 percent of companies not having parties a year ago.

In a separate survey on holiday parties by the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), about 30 percent of respondents said their organizations would not be holding a party this year.

“Holiday parties may be falling out of favor. Some companies may have cut them during the recession and found that they weren’t really missed. Parties can be a morale booster, but they can also be a source of stress for many employees. And, they are most certainly, a potential source of workplace pitfalls, especially if alcohol is being served,” said Challenger.

More than half (54 percent) of the respondents to the Challenger survey said their holiday parties would include alcohol. That was about equal to the 59 percent who said the same in the SHRM survey.

“The dos and don’ts list, which is already pretty long when it comes to workplace functions, becomes even longer when alcohol is involved. Actions typically governed by common sense take on an entirely new level of potential risk, as the level of good judgement shrinks in direct inverse proportion to the number of drinks consumed,” warned Challenger.

Nearly one-in-three respondents (31 percent) said their party will be held on company premises. That is unchanged from a year ago.