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Making Halloween At Work a Special Occasion

Human Resources

Halloween at work represents a creative opportunity to boost employee engagement and enhance the quality of your company's culture. But in our age of greater inclusiveness and sensitivity to individual preferences, small businesses are well advised to plan the best ways to celebrate the holiday with fun and appropriate costuming without detracting from a productive work environment.

Here are tips for getting your employees excited about Halloween at work and ensuring that everyone feels comfortable with their degrees of involvement:

Communicate guidelines to ensure a positive experience. Assuming you've established policies governing appropriate wear and behavior, don't miss any opportunity to communicate those guidelines in advance of the holiday. Frame your message in a positive light through emails, newsletters, posters, etc., so employees understand what Halloween in your workplace will look like.

Emphasize the voluntary nature of celebration. No employees should feel they're obliged to dress up in a silly costume for Halloween. In some cases, there are "many reasons an employee may not feel comfortable participating," notes Inc. "A message from HR or even the CEO letting them off the hook will ensure no one feels uncomfortable."

Payroll HR consultant Kirsten Tornow offers these additional tips: "Other than dressing in costume, some other ways to be festive and inclusive could be a contest to decorate cubicles or a bake-off challenge of spooky treats! It's also important to ask your team what or how they'd like to celebrate Halloween. Doing a quick survey to get everyone on board might go a long way, too."

Set a Halloween dress code. No employer can afford to offend the sensibilities of individual employees, so it's imperative to establish a Halloween dress code that clearly outlines what's appropriate and what's not. In the inappropriate column, it's generally safe to list the following:

  • Costumes that play on stereotypes of race, religion, gender, etc.
  • Any costume of a sexual nature
  • Any costume lampooning political or religious figures

For some businesses, "inappropriate" may also refer to costumes that impede an employee's ability to do his or her job. This can encompass businesses "that utilize machinery, vehicles, or any other mechanical device or apparatus where costumes pose a hazard," notes Philadelphia Business Journal.

Generally speaking, "appropriate" costumes might include the following:

  • Popular superhero figures
  • Science fiction movie creatures
  • Cuddly animals
  • Seasonal themed outfits
  • Cartoon characters

It's up to the employer to specify what's not acceptable and offer broad-based suggestions on what might be fun and upbeat to wear.

Consider implementing a "no-pranks" policy. People who really get into the Halloween spirit sometimes like to play pranks or attempt to scare co-workers. While this may be in the spirit of the occasion, employers usually prefer that the workplace not harbor unexpected frights or scares around every corner--this being a distinctly distracting environment in which to get work done. It's best to outline a no-pranks policy well in advance of Halloween so employees know to save those antics for off-site parties or other public gatherings.

Remember, you set the tone for how employees celebrate Halloween at work. Frame your messaging in an upbeat tone, while of course, making clear that work still needs to get done. This will help to ensure everyone who wants to participate in the festive occasion feels comfortable doing so, as do those who choose not to.

This website contains articles posted for informational and educational value. Paychex is not responsible for information contained within any of these materials. Any opinions expressed within materials are not necessarily the opinion of, or supported by, Paychex. The information in these materials should not be considered legal or accounting advice, and it should not substitute for legal, accounting, and other professional advice where the facts and circumstances warrant.