Opinion: Dos and don’ts of celebrating Halloween at the office

Dos and don'ts of celebrating Halloween at the office: how to have fun without spooking the rest of the staff

Credit: Kevin Dooley/Flickr

How to have fun without spooking the rest of the staff

Halloween reminds us of the dangers that lurk when mixing work and pleasure in business. Theres a need for a balance between productivity and company morale. What do business owners and employees need to remember ahead of October 31?

1. Respect non-participation: If co-workers avoid eye contact, decline to wear a costume or shut doors, honour their decision and avoid interrupting unless it’s work-related. If you must knock, keep it short and sweet because colleagues may dislike Halloween. Read the mood.

2. Hibernate politely: If you aren’t participating and don’t wish to be disturbed, place a “Please don’t disturb” sign in your workspace. If you’re participating after 5 p.m., let your colleagues know that, too.

3. Avoid unconscious bias: Unconscious bias can influence behaviour and reinforce stereotypes without intention. Before committing to this year’s Halloween costume, ask these questions. 

• Does my costume represent another culture? If so, what positive or negative associations might be involved?

• How might someone else perceive my costume? Could it possibly offend someone?

• Why am I wearing the costume I chose? Why is it important to me?

• Is my costume inappropriate for the workplace? If so, it may be inappropriate in your social circles as well.

4. Follow regular dress code rules: Stay in line with the organization’s dress code and Halloween guidelines. The dress code doesn’t disappear when Halloween arrives. Keep it classy. Avoid skimpy, sensual, gruesome and/or offensive costumes that damage personal brand as well as company image.

5. Consider discreet party locations: If you wish to be the haunt in Halloween, try hosting a gathering in a secluded spot away from the work environment such as the break room, cafeteria or outdoor courtyard.

6. Decorate workspaces in good taste: Be creative with pumpkins, squash, corn and leaves. Hang children’s artwork. Avoid creating obstacles or jeopardizing safety with poor decor placement. Think twice about how far you really want to go in waiting rooms and other areas that customers will see.

7. Treat your tricksters: Collaborate with colleagues to create a participant celebration list. Survey the crowd about tree nut, dairy, gluten or other allergies before purchasing treats. Stock up on a variety of non-allergenic desk candies or organize a potluck.

Sharon Schweitzer is an international etiquette and modern manners expert and a cross-cultural trainer who is founder of Access to Culture.