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Renewing a Year-End Tradition, Companies Are Throwing Holiday Parties Again to Bring Employees Back Together

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  • In-person holiday parties are on the rise as 42% of companies say they plan an end-of-year gathering, according to a new survey.
  • As many employees continue to work remotely, firms view parties as a good way to bring people together again.
  • Given layoffs and economic uncertainty, some business leaders are reimaging the office party.

After two years of Covid-related cancellations and the desire of many companies to bring remote workers back together, the office party is staging a comeback. About 42% of companies say they are planning an in-person holiday party this year, up from just 13% a year ago, according to a survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas. 

"Companies that are announcing parties clearly want people to attend," said Andrew Challenger, senior vice president at Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

With many employees still working remotely or in a hybrid situation, companies are eager to give people a way to connect. "Having these types of camaraderie-building events is a really valuable way companies can start to lure people back in," he added.

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Even as many companies cut costs through layoffs and hiring freezes, human resources experts say business leaders and managers have to be aware of the impression they make if they cut out the holiday party altogether. 

"Those types of signals can send some powerful messages," said Mark Royal, a senior client partner at the global organizational consulting firm Korn Ferry. "If employees are wondering, 'Are we going to be OK?' 'Will we navigate these challenges together effectively?' cutting the holiday party can send the signal that there's perhaps something to be concerned about." 

Which companies are in a party mood

Many companies are in a celebratory mood, including those in airlines and aerospace, car makers, business support and logistics, education, and food and beverage sectors.

Yet with several large technology companies, including Meta, Twitter and Amazon, recently announcing massive layoffs, the tech sector is planning far fewer festivities. Only about a quarter of tech firms plan to have in-person holiday parties this year, according to the Challenger report.

As companies try to attract and retain employees, experts say end-of-year parties that show appreciation for workers can go a long way. Many companies "are still trying to hire and so they're investing in their people by having parties like this," adds Challenger.

Reimagining the end-of-year celebration

Of the firms having parties this year, about 70% are planning catered affairs, and nearly two-thirds will serve alcohol, according to the Challenger survey. 

It may be easier to connect with colleagues at this year's holiday party as companies are reimaging it as a smaller, team-only gathering focused on bonding.

Instead of the traditional "drinking and dancing" soiree, they're adding activities — "things like a scavenger hunt or an escape room or an experience," said Julie Kratz, founder and CEO of Next Pivot Point, a leadership-training organization that works with companies to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Refresh your office party etiquette

Younger or newer employees, who may have never been to an office party at their firm, likely know that getting drunk at a work party is a no-no.

An informal, office gathering can be an opportunity to get some face time with coworkers, managers and executives.

"Spend lots of time connecting with people from different departments that you might not Zoom with day in and day out," Challenger said. "It's a great time to meet your boss' boss' boss; move up in the organization." 

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