Halloween is fast approaching, and you know what that means: Scary things. Horror movies, haunted houses, that feeling in your stomach after you eat the tenth piece of candy. Among the many things that can cause fear during the Halloween season (and yes, there’s now a Halloween season), planning a Halloween company party can be the biggest for some HR professionals. It can be a real challenge to know what exactly to do at the party and exactly how to do it. So, while there are a myriad of ways to celebrate the holiday at work, here are 9 things to avoid when planning your Halloween party:
1. Don’t make it mandatory. Whatever you do for the party, whether it be a costume party or a chili cook off, never force employees to participate. Besides the fact that making something mandatory can take the fun out of it, some people don’t believe in Halloween (for religious or personal reasons). With all that said, do everything you can to get people to care. Offer real prizes for any competitions you have so people are plenty incentivized, and promote the event as much as is reasonably possible to create excitement.
2. Don’t expect a normal day of productivity. Be realistic. If your accountant is dressed up as a giant taco, there’s a slight chance she may not get those projections to you today. To counterbalance the inevitable Halloween distractions, make sure to get your most important end-of-month work finished prior to Halloween. That way, when it’s time for the company party, everyone can freely come, enjoy themselves, and build lasting bonds with each other.
3. Don’t forget about the families. Make sure your company party plans are family-friendly. You don’t have to make the whole party just for the kids, but be aware that most people with kids will expect some sort of activity, whether it be cubicle trick-or-treating or a kid’s costume competition (or something akin).
4. Don’t forget your culture. Don’t lose sight of who you are just because there are lots of spider webs around the office and half the staff are zombies. If you’re a company that prides itself on community service, feel free to weave that into your Halloween traditions. If you’re a company that prides itself on being creative, offer an array of Halloween-themed competitions that force employees to use their creative juices.
5. Don’t forget your dress code. For reasons undetermined by science, many people forget general rules of conduct during Halloween. Men and women alike wear things that ….umm, don’t comply with their company’s dress code. (“You really thought ‘Sexy Nun’ was a good costume idea for a work party?”) To prevent any unnecessary wardrobe malfunctions, make sure everybody knows what costumes are and aren’t acceptable this year.
6. Don’t be an enemy to tradition. This is especially helpful if you are new to a company. Make sure you know what the company has done in previous years, and more importantly, make sure you know which traditions the employees already love. Halloween is a lot of people’s favorite holiday, so the traditions can be especially important. Tra-di-tion, tra-di-tion!
7. Don’t forget your employees. With that said, don’t be afraid to ditch the lame traditions. The best way to make sure you’re giving your people the party they want is to, you know, ask them. Ask for their feedback and opinions. And really listen. Even if you don’t love the suggestions they give you, or if they’re totally unreasonable (looking into mirrors to determine your future spouse!?), never belittle their ideas.
8. Don’t do it halfway. There are few things worse than a company party that is boring. Or underprepared. Or poorly attended. If you’re going to take the time to take people away from work to socialize and let loose in the festivities, make sure it’s a worthwhile endeavor. For some people, when they think of your company culture, the Halloween party will be one of the first images to cross their minds. For spouses and other family members, it can be one of very few interactions with your company. So, make sure to put in all the necessary work to make the party a smashing success.
9. Don’t overdo it. But … don’t destroy company property with the decorations. Go easy on alcoholic beverages (if you provide any). And don’t expect to change the entire trajectory of the company. After all, it is still just a party. A super valuable opportunity to grow your employer brand, retention, and culture? Absolutely. Just don’t do anything you’ll regret after the homemade root beer and candy corn are gone.