Forget about vampires, ghosts, and witches; Some of the nightmares HR professionals face include an overabundance of sweets, safety issues, and employees assuming that they have the license to don inappropriate costumes. Not just limited to the costumes, Halloween poses a lot of potential HR and health & safety risks that can rain over your workplace productivity.
Halloween is one celebration rife with opportunities to cross the line. It requires more oversight and regulations, as certain costumes can be offensive to those in a culturally diverse company, breach good taste or pose a safety hazard.
Employees coming in to work sporting inappropriate costumes can lead to discrimination claims; not to mention harassment claims in events of sexually explicit costumes. With everyone hopped up on sugar and dressed up so ingeniously instead of their professional work attires, it’s natural for people to indulge in animated babble, resulting in them being distracted from their work. All the HR personnel we have talked to, say that the whole day is technically a write off.
Not to mention, if your company hosts any kind of informal, after-work Halloween gathering, be it a few innocuous games during lunch break or drinks after work, these can pose risks to the workplace. So, you might be feeling the urge to simply send an email to all staff telling them ‘Halloween is cancelled this year.’
No, Please Don’t; We Can Work Something Out
Your employees have looked forward to Halloween all year, and if celebrated correctly, Halloween can have a tremendous impact on company morale. We all know how great Halloween gatherings are for teambuilding. Dressing up in particular, and even fun games, can be great for breaking walls and sparking conversations between employees, allowing them to get to know each other beyond their professional roles.
If guidelines are set out properly, in advance, and somebody is there to make sure that they are executed when the time comes, any potential mishaps can be thwarted. This leaves you with a workforce brimming over with excitement at the shake-up of the usual atmosphere, something that can motivate and reinvigorate them. When it comes to deciding whether, and how to celebrate Halloween at the workplace, the organization’s approach to diversity, culture, boundaries, and customer impact should be taken into consideration.
While Halloween is largely a secular holiday, it does have pagan symbols and religious roots. This is why some people might not feel comfortable participating in company-sponsored Halloween events. Organizations should therefore use a flexible tone when inviting workers for a Halloween related event, so that no one feels compelled. For instance, Halloween is considered a pure secular celebration at my workplace, and everyone recognizes that not all employees feel too comfortable celebrating Halloween. This way no one feels a compulsion to participate. Furthermore, all employees are advised not to wear anything that is inconsistent with our company’s diversity policy or equal employment opportunity.
Next comes the decorations. While spooky decorations are fun and all, care must be taken that they do not pose a safety hazard. For instance, instead of using real candles as decorations, why not go for fake or battery powered ones instead, in order to avoid fire hazards. Candles are especially perilous since many of the spooky signs you put up will most likely be made of paper materials. Similarly, if you are thinking of hanging stringed lights throughout the workplace, extension cords have to be used carefully. Don’t leave cords lying around on the floor where any unassuming employee could trip and fall. Also, do not thwart aisleways or exits with decorations, making it hard for people to get out in an emergency situation.
Also, it is important to double check that all the Halloween paraphernalia is secured properly, and people can navigate around it, without having something fall over their heads while they are carrying heavy loads. Ensure that any piece of décor doesn’t limit the width or height of hallways, aisles or the entrances to workstations, offices and meeting rooms. Refrain from hanging decorations from any other signage, ventilation openings, T-bar ceiling tiles/grids, and light fixtures. Do and obstruct the cooling and heating registers or attach decorations to windows. Decorations with sharp edges or ones that are breakable should not be hung anywhere where they can harm someone.
Next comes the booze; If you don’t want to induce alcohol stupor, make sure that you let your employees know in advance so that they don’t come to work expecting a ravishing, booze-fueled party, and will know that the workday is to proceed as always. However, even if you allow some booze at Halloween, better not have a game of pumpkin carving, especially when those holding sharp knives do so with a glass of spiked punch in the other. Nevertheless, as much as your employees would remember such company-provided libations, it is always prudent to limit the prominence of free alcohol, especially when most of your employees have to drive afterwards at night. Better yet, If you haven’t already, introduce a zero-tolerance policy on alcohol in the workplace.
Next comes the outrageous costumes. This is another place where you have to draw the line. You may feel a need to ban your employees from donning outfits at the workplace, especially if you have implemented a strict uniform policy in the first place due to safety and health concerns. However, if you are allowing costumes, make sure you outline what is considered appropriate and what isn’t.
For industrial businesses, it is vital that all costumes meet manufacturing floor safety guidelines. Flowing, long costumes, especially inflammable ones, or those that are caught in moving machine parts or easily tripped on are to be avoided at all costs on the factory floors. Furthermore, costumes shouldn’t be distracting to fellow workers, obstruct the wearer’s view, or be flame-retardant.
Not to mention, any costumes that can lead to complaints or cause offense, especially those bordering on adult themes, or those that are overtly political or religious, are to be avoided at all costs. Wearing a Moses, Jesus, Nun, or a pope costume is not a good idea for the workplace. If you are going to be flexible in terms of dressing up, better set up rules about what is considered out of bounds or impermissible. Since Halloween contact lenses are really popular these days, they should be avoided if employees have to deal with machinery or work under high temperatures.
Make Sure Halloween Doesn’t Mean A Day Of All Fun And No Work!
The chance of lessening productivity and employees getting distracted is higher around the holiday season, especially at Halloween. However, the key is to draw the line before things get out of hand. If you notice an employee’s productivity flushing down the drain, better tell them so. Being explicit will put them right back on track. Finally, for safety and health purposes, particularly relating to costumes and decoration, conduct a risk assessment prior to the event so that you uncover all high-risk points and take precautions accordingly.