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This year’s holiday parties are “business as usual” for Canadian workplaces


 While the economic slowdown has consumers and businesses feeling the pinch as the holidays approach, the time-honoured office party tradition is still intact for a majority of Canadian businesses, according to a new poll from Workopolis.

Asked whether recent market events have affected budgets for this year’s celebration, only 11 per cent of holiday party decision-makers said they were cancelling the party altogether. Of the rest, nearly seven-in-ten (68 per cent) said they will spend the same amount, and one-in-ten (10 per cent) said they will be spending more. Only 17 per cent said they plan to cut out some of the holiday cheer at this year’s party.

“Whether this year has been good or bad for your organization, the holidays are a key time for recognizing your employees’ hard work,” says Patrick Sullivan, President of Workpolis. “It’s essential to thank employees for a job well done. But that doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of a lavish party - it’s the thought that counts.”

Keep the turkey but hold the trimmings

While the majority (53 per cent) of party organizers have not considered any cost-cutting measures, the most common budget cuts are unlikely to affect the overall festive tone. Reductions being considered by party organizers:

  • One-in-five (20 per cent) said they would plan for less expensive entertainment or venues;
  • 15 per cent said they hold the party on company premises to cut costs;
  • 13 per cent said they would hold the party on a weeknight rather than the weekend;
  • 12 per cent would invite employees only rather than significant others or family members;
  • 9 per cent  would hold the party during the day rather than the evening; and
  • Fortunately for those who enjoy letting their hair down at the workplace party, only 9 per cent said they would hold a non-alcoholic party.

Employees take cutback possibilities in stride

The poll also asked working Canadians not involved in financial decisions related to their workplace holiday party how they would feel if the workplace party were scaled back or cancelled altogether because of the economic slowdown. Of those whose workplaces normally have holiday parties, more than six-in-ten (62 per cent) said they would understand.

  • Nearly a quarter (24 per cent) say they would be disappointed by the loss of a tradition they look forward to.
  • Six per cent of respondents say they would be angry if their company chose to cut back on the holiday party and think the boss should be given a pay cut.
  • Ontarians are most likely to be understanding if the holiday party were scaled back or cancelled (69 per cent)
  • Quebeckers are most likely to resent a party cancellation or scale-back (12 per cent).

Tips for hosting the office holiday party in tough economic times:

  • Cheap and cheerful - Focus in on the elements that matter – ensure you’ve got good food and possibly a drink or two but don’t go overboard with fancy décor.
  • Do something different - Whether you’re cutting back costs or keeping your budget status quo, consider something a bit different. A midday cocktail reception, even in your boardroom, can be a fun way to celebrate and is less stuffy than a formal sit down affair.
  • Get a little perspective – Consider turning your holiday party into a fundraiser or volunteer as a team at the local food bank or soup kitchen.
  • Be sensitive to your employees’ priorities – Even if your business is not cutting back this year, staff may be scaling back their personal budgets. Hosting a black-tie affair may not be appropriate if employees are feeling less flush than in previous years.

“If it is not appropriate to be hosting a party of any kind this year, it’s important that this news is communicated early and in a manner that is forthcoming. Tone is key – particularly if employees are used to having a celebration in years past,” says Sullivan.

To find out more about holiday related issues in the workplace, visit for the following and other articles: “Cutting Back on Holiday Spending” and “Eight Tips for a Greener Holiday Season.”

Headquartered in Toronto, Workopolis is a leading Canadian online career-solutions provider with over 3.3 million unique visitors monthly in Canada. Workopolis is the exclusive Official Supplier of Online Recruitment Services for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games. 

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