Holiday Parties Slide to Post-Recession Lows, Possibly Over #MeToo Impact

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The U.S. economy is running at its fastest pace since before The Great Recession, by most measures. Even so, American companies will throw the fewest holiday parties since 2009. In that year, 62% of businesses surveyed held holiday parties. This year, the number will be a very modest 65.4%, a decline of more than 7 percentage points from last year.

Chicago-based job research firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas began its polling on the issues in 2004. For 2018 it polled 150 human resources executives over the course of October. The poll asked several questions that included whether companies have ever held parties, whether budgets would change their 2019 celebrations when they will have their events, and whether alcohol or food would be served.

Decisions on parties were mostly unrelated to economic issues. Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger¬† Gray, commented, “The low number of corporate celebrations does not appear to be due to economic reasons. Companies are sitting on tax savings and generally report a thriving economy.” Of the companies questioned, 68% said the economy has improved from last year. Just below 29% the companies surveyed said the economy was about the same as in 2017.

The #MeToo movement had an effect. Just shy of 60% of the companies questioned had addressed #MeToo movement issues. A third of these will address the topic ahead of parties.

“We have never seen so many companies report that they never have holiday parties. The number could be due to several factors, including potential liability following the #MeToo movement,” said Challenger. The movement began shortly after the revelations of sexual misconduct involving movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in October 2017. “The fact that nearly 60% of companies that are having parties have real concerns about inappropriate behavior shows that HR departments nationwide are responding to this particular issue,”

Challenger Gray said other reasons for fewer holiday parties may be because a company’s workforce is mostly remote and it is too difficult to convene for the celebration, or companies plan on having parties at other times of the year.

 

Will your company hold a holiday party this year? 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Yes, we always hold holiday parties. 65.40% 72.70% 76.00% 69.00% 77.80%
Yes, we are having a holiday party after one or more years of not holding one due to economic downturn. 0.00% 4.60% 4.00% 13.00% 11.20%
No, we never have holiday parties. 26.90% 11.40% 16.00% 13.00% 6.50%
Not this year. 7.70% 11.30% 4.00% 6.00% 4.50%

 

If you are having a party, is the company budgeting more or less this year? 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Budgeting Same 75.40% 65.70% 68.40% 92.00% 76.00%
Budgeting More 24.60% 18.70% 21.10% 0.00% 18.00%
Budgeting Less 0.00% 15.60% 10.50% 8.00% 6.00%

 

If you are having a party, will you be (check all that apply) 2018 2017 2016 2015 2014
Using a caterer, event planner, or other outside service 51.50% 59.50% 66.70% 62.00% 58.80%
Holding the party on company premises 39.40% 32.40% 28.60% 31.00% 29.40%
Serving alcohol 48.50% 48.70% 61.90% 54.00% 41.20%
Inviting employees only 54.60% 59.50% 52.40% 46.00% 52.90%
Inviting family/spouse/partner to attend 30.30% 37.80% 42.90% 31.00% 29.40%
Holding party in evening or on weekend 45.50% 48.70% 38.10% 31.00% 35.30%
Holding party during workday or near end of workday 51.50% 51.40% 47.60% 54.00% 64.70%