Monday, January 30, 2023

Company Christmas parties are back, but toned down

NEW YORK ( Associated Press) – Virtual wine pairing and karaoke video chat parties are over. Whether you love them or hate them, the year-end face-to-face parties thrown by companies for their employees are back, albeit with a more toned-down air.

After more than two years of being able to work in their pajamas and toast remotely via the Zoom platform, many office workers are now longing for those video conference meetings.

The same can be said for some front-line workers, who have seen major celebrations cancelled, even though they reported to work every day during the depth of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They always made me feel special,” said Shobha Surya, who longs to treat herself to a new dress every year for a dinner and karaoke party hosted by Ajinomoto Health and Nutrition North America, a Japanese-owned company based in the Chicago area. “

She was so excited that the face-to-face party was back for the first time in two years, that she picked out her black-and-white cocktail dress two months in advance.

“Everyone to celebrate,” he said with a smile at Monday’s after-party, where he was recognized for completing 15 years at the company. “It gets you in the mood for the holiday season.”

A survey of 252 US-based companies by recruitment firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas revealed that more than 57% of companies have planned a personalized party this holiday season. While this percentage is still significantly lower than the 75% of companies hosting parties in 2019, it is a huge jump to 26% in 2021 and 5% in 2020.

Still, not everyone is ready to party like it’s 2019.

Many celebrations will be smaller or more moderate as employers try to accommodate an increasingly remote and dispersed workforce.

Virtual wine pairings and Secret Santa exchanges are out of place now, but many companies are turning to activities like spas, juggling shows and even private screenings at theaters or outdoor games to attract employees. Huh. ,

And some others are still clinging to bonuses or overtime that were offered to them during the pandemic to make up for the lack of year-end celebrations.

Cari Snavely’s team of 20 employees opted for a game of pickleball for the afternoon when her Boston-based software company offered them a lump sum so they could decide how to celebrate.

It’s a far cry from the huge parties she had when she worked for The Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta a few years ago, she said, but she said it’s a better way to break the ice for people who have worked together. didn’t work. person long hours… In addition, he said, many of his co-workers wanted the chance to take an early break from work and go home.

“We really wanted to make sure as many people as possible could go,” said Snavelli, who works in finance. “People have commitments at home now, baby.”

Quickbase has 700 employees, but many of them work remotely, as far away as Bulgaria, so it didn’t make sense to throw a big party at the company headquarters, said Sherry Cottman, director of human resources. explained. Instead, the company let individual teams organize their own way of celebrating.

Even in Boston, she said, only 30 to 40% of employees come to the office in the middle of the week, when it’s busiest.

But one thing seems certain: People are tired of looking at each other on screen for cocktails or secretly exchanging gifts from Santa Claus. Less than 2% of companies are hosting virtual celebrations this year, up from 7% last year and 17% in 2020, according to a Challenger survey.

Jeff Consoletti, founder of Los Angeles-based event production company JJLA, said he hasn’t received any requests this year for gift boxes or cheese and wine pairing kits, which have helped keep his business afloat during the past two years.

Instead, he’s seen a 100% increase in bookings for in-person events, even though they pale in comparison to the 5,000-person fun he used to host before the pandemic.

Ksenia Kulinich, director of operations for the Monarch Rooftop & Indoor Lounge in New York, said she’s seen small group bookings increase more than 30% this year and often the number of guests is dramatically lower or higher as more planners figure it out. Struggling to figure out how to deepen the excitement of going to the festivities in person. The lunch has been surprisingly popular and there is no question of a Friday.

“We propose Fridays and the answer is always ‘Nobody’s in the office. It’s very difficult to get to the office. Nobody’s coming to town on Friday,'” Kulinich explained.

Even before the telecommuting revolution, some people balked at the idea of ​​”forced hanging out” in company headquarters, especially in corporate cultures where binge drinking is associated with informal group gatherings.

Shweta Pai, who works from her home in Cincinnati for a small firm that analyzes workplaces, said large parties bring back memories of her early days in investment banking, when she was always on the defensive in meetings. Male-dominated nights, when she would often bring his ride home as an excuse to leave early.

“People make the wrong decisions in those situations. They just do it,” lamented Pai, 41, head of operations and marketing at Worklytics. “There’s definitely an expectation that you’re involved in everything because it’s part of the ‘team bond,’ but there are actually a lot of challenges and risks for women.”

Bill McQueen, 46, is assistant manager of merchandising at Ajinomoto’s manufacturing plant in Edville, Iowa. He is far from the nightlife of the big city and does not drink alcohol, but relies on it when it comes to playing bingo.

McQueen said his heart “jumped with joy that we are back in the pre-COVID era” when he received his bingo card at the entrance to Ajinomoto’s dinner for plant workers. He said he has cherished that event ever since he started working there 28 years ago, two days after graduating from high school.

McQueen said, “It was really nice to hear everybody in that room talking and laughing and people joking with each other.” “And as corny as it sounds, it was like a family reunion.”

Nation World News Desk
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