Should This Year’s Office Holiday Party Be Your Last? - Talent IntelligenceMore companies are cancelling the annual employee appreciation event.

The days of lavish end-of-the-year company events may be a thing of the past, according to recent research.

In a November Society for Human Resource Management survey, 65 percent of companies said they were hosting an office holiday party this year, a slight decrease from last year. Thirty percent of organizations aren’t planning a seasonal gathering for employees — a 13 percent increase from three years ago.

Chances are, your organization has already scheduled its office holiday party — or decided not to. Given the decline in seasonal soiree interest, however, it may be time to reconsider whether the expense is worthwhile in the future.

A few questions to consider before booking next year’s office holiday party:

  • Will employees miss it? An office holiday party can be an effective way to express employee appreciation — but only if employees enjoy attending. In a recent survey from Project: Time Off, workers ranked spending time with a spouse (81 percent) and their children (84 percent) as their first and second priority; yet 61 percent said they regularly logged in more work than family time. If your staff would rather have a night or afternoon off to spend with family — or workers don’t want to take several hours out of their day to celebrate for another reason — instead of expressing employee appreciation, your party could have the opposite effect. The best way to find out? Observe the mood at this year’s office holiday party. Take a head count to see how many employees attend, and how many had excuses not to — and ask how employees feel about the party, using an all-employee survey.
  • Can we afford it? If your office holiday party is a beloved annual event, but funds are tight, consider hosting a smaller, less expensive gathering. More than a quarter (27 percent) of SHRM survey respondents said their office holiday would be held on-site. Having an in-office party can save a considerable amount on location rental fees, which price estimation site CostHelper says can be as much as $2,500, and food and drink expenses, which estimates may cost at least $75 per employee.
  • When should we hold the office holiday party? We know, thanks to Project: Time Off’s research, that a number of workers feel like they’re running short on family time. Thirty percent say they spend less than 15 hours of quality time together a week. Because only 9 percent of companies planned to let spouses and children attend their office holiday party this year, an evening event will likely mean more time away from workers’ loved ones.

Younger workers who may not have children or a spouse also value their personal time. Fifty-eight percent of millennials use every last bit of their paid time off each year; just 16 percent ranked holding events or meetings on a weekend as the most motivating factor to attend, according to a Professional Convention Management Association survey. (Sixteen percent said a weekend event date would actually be the least motivating factor to attend.)

To give workers of all ages the time off they desire, instead of a nighttime office holiday party, consider hosting a lunchtime event, as more than half (52 percent) of organizations will this year, according to ERC. Noon is the most popular kick-off time.

  • How does our office holiday party correspond with our company culture? Incorporating new elements into your annual event can help reinforce your organization’s other teambuilding and inclusion efforts. To reflect your support for diversity, Entrepreneur suggests forgoing the traditional office holiday party eats for dishes from other nations.

You can also use your annual office holiday party to emphasize new programs you’ve launched. If your company has recently introduced a corporate philanthropy or enterprise-wide volunteering effort, for example, you may want to announce a recent charitable donation during the festivities — or forgo your office holiday party altogether and use the allotted funds to make a larger contribution.

An office holiday party isn’t the only way you can express employee appreciation. Flex work schedules that give employees more freedom; employee recognition programs — which don’t have to be expensive; mentoring systems and other initiatives can help ensure your workforce feels recognized and remains engaged.

If you do, however, decide to nix your annual office holiday party, due to a lack of employee interest, financial resources or another reason, get tips on the best way to break the news to employees in our recent blog post on eliminating employee perks.