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Halloween in the Workplace - Treat or Terror?

Posted by: Gail Cecchettini Whaley J.D. on Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 12:00:00 am

Office parties can boost morale and lighten the mood. They can help connect people in different departments and at different levels in the organization. But Halloween office parties come with their potential frights! How can your company have fun without the scary ghouls from HR coming to spirit you away?

One of the first decisions you will need to make is whether costumes are allowed for your workplace celebration. If your company decides to allow employees to dress up for Halloween, communicate the expectations in advance to avoid the problem of the overly sexy or offensive costume.

• The Sexy Costume: Walk into any Halloween costume store and you may see a wide variety of sexy nurses, witches, cops, and fairytale characters. Keep the sexy Halloween costumes for after work. If you allow costumes at work, remind employees ahead of time that your dress code remains in place and overly revealing costumes are not allowed.
• The Offensive Costume: Same goes with other potentially offensive or tension-inducing costumes, such as political costumes, costumes that poke fun at the boss or overly gruesome or frightening costumes. Also, employees should avoid costumes that appropriate a culture other than their own. Given recent news stories, let's reiterate: Blackface is NEVER okay.

Again, remind workers that your policies are still in place, including anti-harassment and respectful workplace policies. For employees, if you think your costume might be crossing the line (or even close to it), skip it. There are plenty of fun non-offensive costumes out there.

Keeping it Workplace Friendly

Maybe your workplace will decide to skip Halloween costumes. What are some other fun ways to enjoy the day at work?

Depending on your company's time, money and interest level, your workplace can choose one or more events. Try to bring in people from different departments to help plan. Here are some simple ideas:

1. Allow employees to decorate the office. Set a budget and a theme and have at it.
2. Break out the markers, glue, and glitter and have a pumpkin decorating contest (using my Cal/OSHA hat, I recommend leaving the carving knives at home).
3. Enjoy a "spooky" office potluck for breakfast or lunch.
4. Host a Halloween-themed bake sale with proceeds going to a local children's charity and an employee prize for the best-decorated treats.
5. Fill up the office with free candy or allow employees to "trick-or-treat" from cubicle to cubicle or door to door.
6. Put on a great Halloween Spotify playlist! Monster Mash, Werewolves of London, anyone?

Remember that with any office celebration, participation should be completely voluntary. Some might not want to participate due to religious or other beliefs—or just may not like Halloween. Don't pressure those who aren't interested.

With some advance planning and good communication, you can avoid potential pitfalls and have a frightfully fun day!

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