2009 Workplace Holiday Fetes Less Festive

December 14, 2009 (PLANSPONSOR.com) – A new employer survey finds the down economy has taken a major bite out of traditional year-end holiday workplace activities.

BNA reports that its Holiday Practices Survey finds a significant dropoff in corporate sponsorship of holiday parties from 81% in 2008 to 67% in the latest poll. The proportion of employers backing a company-wide holiday party has also plunged from 64% in 2008 to 50% in 2009.

Also corporate parties will be less of a drinkfest. Among those scheduling an employee party, 58% will have alcohol available, down from 65% last year.

Many of those offering an open bar are also keeping an eye on consumption by:

  • using bartenders to monitor consumption (77%),
  • limiting times when alcohol is served (47%),
  • offering taxi service for employees and guests (51%),
  • providing discounted hotel rates to encourage overnight stays (31%), and
  • appointing designated drivers (8%).

Those that have such get-togethers are making the fetes more of an employee-only affair, according to BNA.

Some 47% will open up their company-wide holiday parties to spouses or other guests, compared with the 55% last year. Some 33% say they will hand over a gift to an employee or provide a bonus, down from 40% in 2008 – the third consecutive declining figure since 49% in 2006.

Employers Still doing Charitable Giving

Even though holiday shindigs are less prevalent this year, that doesn’t mean companies are all playing Scrooge.  Some 59% will sponsor or participate in one or more charitable activities this holiday season, little changed from the 61% of employers that engaged in these activities during the 2008 holiday season.

Toy collections and food drives continue to be the top choices for charitable giving. Two in five establishments (40%) will sponsor the collection of toys and games for needy children, while nearly the same proportion of organizations (39%) will sponsor or contribute to year-end food drives.

The 2009 holiday calendar will facilitate generous paid leave. The fact that both Christmas and New Year's fall on Friday creates favorable conditions for an extended weekend. Nearly six in 10 surveyed employers (58%) have scheduled at least three days of paid leave during the 2009-2010 holiday season.

The survey was based on responses from 315 human resources and employee relations executives.