2020 Holiday Party Survey: COVID Cancels, Modifies Most Plans This Year


COVID-19 Cancels Holiday Parties; 44% Will Not Hold a Party Specifically Due to COVID

One year after nearly 76% of companies planned to hold holiday parties, just 23% of companies are planning a year-end celebration this year, and 74% of those will be virtual events, according to survey results released Monday by global outplacement and business and executive coaching firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

According to the annual survey on holiday party plans, conducted online in October among 189 human resources representatives at companies of various sizes and industries across the country, of those planning parties, 1.3% will hold them in person without any precautions.

“It is no surprise that many companies are forgoing the holiday party this year. It’s difficult to celebrate and implement all the precautions needed to keep everyone safe. The last thing any employer wants is an outbreak due to their year-end party,” said Andrew Challenger, Senior Vice President of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

Of the few companies that will hold in-person events, 4% reported they will modify the event due to COVID, with 100% of those mandating masks and social distancing. The survey also found 67% will limit the number of attendees, and 33% reported they will take temperatures and hold the event outside.

Overall, 54.6% of companies will not hold an event this year, the highest rate since Challenger began the survey in 2004. Of those, 44% of companies canceled plans specifically due to COVID. Another 5.3% report they are not having a party due to cost-cutting, while 4% report they never hold holiday parties.

Uncertainty is another factor in company plans, as 22.7% of companies said they were unsure whether they will host a party this year or were waiting for state and local guidance before making a decision.

Meanwhile, many companies report they have not yet brought all their workers back to the office in person. The majority of respondents (55%) are keeping most of their staff working from home (WFH), and another 5.5% have all their workers working from home.

When asked when employers plan to bring all workers back to the office, 44% were unsure or did not answer. Another 21.3% planned to bring all workers back in early 2021, and 8% will wait for a vaccine.

“Employers are creating and modifying their WFH policies as they go, making it extremely difficult to plan for basic operations, much less their holiday parties,” said Challenger.

In its annual survey, Challenger typically asks respondents if the economy is doing better than last year. This year, the firm asked if COVID has impacted the company’s specific business conditions. Over half (52%) report business conditions are worse, while 14% report an improvement. Another 17% report mixed results from different business segments.

“Millions of Americans are still out of work and many others are waiting to hear if their jobs still exist. Of those who are employed, many may be experiencing survivor syndrome or are dealing with other energy- and morale-sapping issues at home. It is imperative that companies look for ways to celebrate their employees,” said Challenger.

“Many workers now have extensive experience with video conferencing software, and even a short happy hour can help connect employees. Managers can facilitate games using apps like Houseparty or find online trivia games and mail prizes to the winners,” he added.

“Unfortunately, the traditional, in-person, indoor event is likely not the way to celebrate your workforce in 2020,” said Challenger.

Download the full press release with tables below.