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5 Tips for Celebrating Halloween in the Workplace in 2020

Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
by Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP on October 27, 2020

From costumes to candy, Halloween celebrations know no age limit. However, for employers, workplace Halloween gatherings, if not planned properly, can lead to nightmarish HR situations.

Striking a balance between safety and fun for workplace holidays is always tricky, but the coronavirus pandemic has added a new layer of risk this season. The days of bobbing for apples or dancing the Monster Mash in close quarters may be gone for now, but that doesn't mean workplace Halloween celebrations must be canceled altogether.

Read on to learn how to keep your employees safe during workplace Halloween celebrations amid the coronavirus pandemic.

1. Pass on the Potluck

Food and celebrations go hand-in-hand, and Halloween without candy and office potlucks may barely be considered Halloween at all! Unfortunately, the common touch surfaces associated with self-serve food and beverages pose increased health risks for guests. But, there are several precautions you can take to offer food in a safe manner.

Instead of having drinks located in a cooler or accessible via a beverage dispenser, try setting up canned or bottled beverages on a table. This makes it easier for employees to quickly grab their desired drink while limiting their number of touchpoints.

It's best to avoid potlucks and buffets where food is often uncovered, and utensils are passed from one person to the next. Instead, consider setting up cafeteria-style with a designated food server that follows safety and cleaning protocols. Another option would be individually wrapping single portions of food.

Most importantly, ensure your employees have access to hand sanitizer and encourage its use prior to handling food and eating. Be sure employees are abiding by social distancing guidelines by spacing tables six feet or more from one another and have employees wear masks when not eating or drinking.

2.  Promote Mask Wearing

Although masks are a common feature of Halloween costumes, it's important not to mistake the protective qualities of a facemask recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with that of a costume mask. Costume masks are typically made with breathable holes around the mouth and nose, which would render them ineffective in protecting you from breathing viral particles. In the spirit of Halloween, opt for a Halloween-themed cloth facemask.

3. Decorate the Workplace

Decorating is an excellent way to get into the holiday spirit. If your employees work within an office setting, encourage them to decorate their desk space. For industries where workers don't have a designated work area, consider decorating the front desk or waiting area, or common spaces like breakrooms.  

4. Limit or Forego Gatherings

Some Halloween parties consist of dancing and mingling, which is unsafe behavior in the midst of a global pandemic. Consider foregoing a company-wide gathering this Halloween to limit the number of individuals together in one location. If you do choose to gather, opt to take the party outside, and social distance from one another. Carve pumpkins or provide a Halloween scavenger hunt. If an outdoor location is not possible, make sure to increase ventilation indoors by opening windows and doors, to the extent it is safe.

5. Hold a Virtual Costume Contest

If your organization typically holds a costume contest or costume parade, aim to make it a virtual event this year. Film or live-stream participants showing off their Halloween costumes while maintaining a safe social distance, and encourage employees to tune in or view the video. Making these modifications is a great way to keep traditions alive while showing respect for employee safety.

As your workplace holiday plan is adapted for the pandemic, don't lose sight of the typical Halloween celebration risks that are encountered annually. You should have a plan to deal with inappropriate or offensive Halloween costumes, food allergies, safety issues while decorating, or even religious opposition to the holiday.

Keeping celebrations alive in the workplace is a great way to boost morale and keep employees motivated. Celebrating will look a bit different this year, and as an employer or HR professional, you may even choose to forgo celebrating all together. Whether your organization chooses to celebrate or not, it's important to keep your employees' safety and well-being at the forefront of any decision.  

For more information about the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on holiday celebrations, click here.

Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP
Tonya Fletcher SPHR, SHRM-SCP

Tonya is the Labor Compliance Manager at FrankCrum. In this role, she leads the FrankAdvice team of HR consultants and manages the delivery and content of best practice HR information to client owners and managers. When she’s not at work, Tonya enjoys international travel.

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