Office Party On
The Rolling Stones weren’t the only ancient tradition making a return this season.
After a recessionary rough patch during which they were considered either massively inappropriate or needlessly extravagant, holiday parties returned to New York City and the rest of the country in 2012, according to two new studies.
Ninety-one percent of companies surveyed by executive search firm Battalia Winston said they had Christmas shindigs this year, the highest percentage in the past six years. And a poll conducted by the Society of Human Resource Management found that 72 percent of respondents celebrated the holidays as a company, up from 68 percent last year and 61 percent in the previous two years.
“I think it’s more reflective of things not getting worse and stabilizing — as opposed to a bright and shiny outlook. It’s all about getting back to normal,” said Dale Winston, chairwoman and CEO of Battalia Winston.
“When there are layoffs, companies can’t have parties. It’s inappropriate. You can’t cut heads, and toast,” she adds.
Barry Weinstein, the founder and “SleepEO” of the Manhattan pillowcase company Pillowcase Studies, didn’t hold a holiday party last year, but this year he had one to build esprit de corps among his employees.
“My company is very small, or at least it was last year. It had just started, and there really wasn’t enough money to justify having a party. When every penny counts, it’s very difficult to spend on excess things like a party when you could be paying more commission to the guys or paying yourself,” he says.
Weinstein treated his nine employees and their guests to dinner and drinks at the Gin Mill on the Upper West Side and then more drinks at a nearby dive bar, with the only proviso that no one be allowed to talk business. He thinks the get-together paid off.
“I’m looking to make sure everyone’s happy, everyone’s working well together, everyone’s working hard together,” he says. “[I want to ] build connections between everyone.”
Like Weinstein, most employers agree these events aren’t a meaningless expense. Seventy percent of respondents to a study commissioned by Seamless Corporate Accounts, an online food service company, said the gatherings are important to company morale, while 90 percent said they’d be disappointed if holiday parties were canceled.
“It’s the last vestige of corporate socialization. I think it’s healthy for employees to have one time of the year where they’re socializing at someplace other than the water cooler,” notes Winston, who attends each of her firms’ parties across the country.
Even a modest event can help boost the morale of a major company.
The law firm Dewey & LeBoeuf, once a global titan, used to spend six figures on elaborate holiday hoedowns, a practice made impossible this year after the firm filed for bankruptcy in last May.
Now in temporary office digs, the 30 remaining employees were invited to a holiday party for all the tenants of Quest Workspaces, which operates the office space Dewey & LeBouef rents out.
The party, held in the common area of Quest’s offices, was “not very luxurious,” says Quest CEO Laura Kozelouzek, “[There was a lot of beer, a lot of wine, great music … after the party we walked across the street to Johnny Utah’s, and went [mechanical] bull riding.”
It might not have been that fancy, but it did the trick. “The Quest holiday party was amazing,” enthuses Terrance T. McCormick, the records manager at Dewey. “I have been to a lot of office holiday parties that cost a ton of money, and it still was not up to the standards of that Quest office party.”