Business are moving away from cocktail hours for team activities.
The office holiday party is sobering up.
Even before the “Weinstein effect” and #metoo shed a national spotlight on the rampant sexual misconduct and harassment women face at work, some companies were already pivoting their office holiday parties away from boozing, and more toward team building.
“The holiday party is always a danger spot,” Marc Prosser, cofounder of FitSmallBusiness.com, told Moneyish. He’s renting out a coffee shop for a night of karaoke and charades in lieu of the standard cocktail party. While alcohol will be served, he warns that booze on its own can “devolve into debauchery.”
“If the only thing that people can do is drink, then of course people are going to get drunk,” he said. “So if you can have other things that people can do, then the good times are not just about waiting for there to be a trainwreck.”
Arianna Halpert, the marketing and operations assistant at ticket seller RateYourSeats.com, told Moneyish that she’s planning a “holiday night out” for the company this year. It features dinner and seeing “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” on Broadway in Chicago.
“We don’t want to be stuck with that whole awkward holiday party situation. You don’t want to cross any lines,” she said. “So going to a play is still a chance to get together, meet each other’s plus-ones and learn more about each other’s backgrounds … but you’re not dealing with awkwardness like, ‘Am I allowed to drink in front of my boss?’”
The spate of sexual harassment and sexual assault charges against high profile men lately, including Harvey Weinstein, Sen. Roy Moore, Matt Lauer, Kevin Spacey and Mario Batali, has scared more than 1 in 10 employers (11%) into nixing the office holiday party entirely this year, according a recent survey. And less than half of the companies surveyed will serve alcohol if the shindig does go on.
The “Today” show threw a low-key party at noon last Thursday, a week after Lauer was axed for alleged sexual misconduct. And Vox Media (which fired its editorial director for sexual harassment last month) told staff that they are limited to two alcoholic drink tickets at this year’s holiday party.
While boozing at parties is no excuse for men (or women) behaving badly, many companies are playing it safe by giving employees more to do than just belly up to the bar. Matt Britton, CEO of marketing tech company Crowdtap, told CNBC that he’s taking his staff bowling.
Alison Brod, the founder and CEO of Alison Brod Marketing and Communications, treated her all-female staff to a Friday afternoon of health and wellness activities at TMPL and David Barton’s Gym last week. But they still spiked the post-workout smoothies with a little mezcal and tequila in moderation.
“It was about keeping things fresh, and everyone here has energy to burn,” said Brod.
Plus, it was still a welcome break from the buttoned-up office culture, but without the misbehavior. “Everyone got to wear their workout gear to the office. We dress up a lot here – we are in PR after all – so allowing the extra-casual dress and saving them the cost of their exercise class added to the concept,” she said.
And as an added bonus, such team-building activities boost productivity and employee satisfaction, which benefits the bottom line. Gallup reports that engaged employees are 17% more productive and 24% less likely to leave the company, which taken together can increase profits 21%.
Other companies are avoiding the pitfalls of holiday parties by scrapping them to give back to the community instead.
Recruiting agency WinterWyman ditched the office fete a decade ago in favor of using the $10,000-$25,000 they’d spend on it to benefit local charities. And now they’re spreading their philanthropy over “25 Days of Giving” that includes cash donations around $1,000 apiece to nonprofits such as the Franciscan Children’s hospital and Horizons for Homeless Children, as well as volunteer activities and opportunities for workers to go perform random acts of kindness.
“We haven’t had any complaints about missing the party from employees,” Elizabeth Spayne, executive vice president of marketing for WinterWyman, told Moneyish. In fact, so many workers wanted to get in on the acts of kindness that the company added extra do-good days.
“We give employees money to go and give out gift cards, buy someone’s groceries or pay off layaways at stores,” said Spayne. “Honestly, it just makes you feel really good.”
And philanthropy is the gift that keeps on giving, employers: Research shows that employees whose work benefits a good cause increase their productivity by 13% – and those we were initially the least productive hustled up to 30% more. And Millennials who frequently participate in volunteer activities at work are almost twice as likely to be “very satisfied” with their career progress — and two times more likely to rate the corporate culture as “very positive” (56%) compared to those who rarely or never volunteer (28%).
“We definitely have seen community develop during the ‘25 Days’ between people on different teams that normally wouldn’t have had the chance to work together,” Spayne told Moneyish. “Now they have that opportunity to work directly together, and that’s been fantastic for our organization.”
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