2009: The Year Free Office Holiday Parties Went Bye-Bye

It seems the recession has robbed office workers of their traditional venue to blow off steam for free. Anecdotal evidence from the all-seeing eye of Twitter has found that a significant number of office parties have disappeared altogether or gone pay-to-play, Budgets Are Sexy reports:

I don’t know what you’re complaining about anyway. Look, none of your twitter friends are getting free rides:

* @pmmaldonado: Um, yeah. As a former NYC employee, I can tell you that we paid for all of our holiday parties ($50/food/open bar was norm)

* @yousuckatkijiji: Same deal at my company, ’til the “staff association” helped fund it. $25 per, plus cash bar. Times have changed…

* @JoeTaxpayerBlog: Same here. $30/head plus cash bar.

* @3princessesmomm: Our work party this time is a lunch in our break room and the company is supplying cold cuts for our potluck sub sandwiches

* @nicoledixon: Wow, that’s wrong – isn’t the point of a holiday party to reward employees for their hard work throughout the year…GEESH! (Editor’s note –
@nicoledixon doesn’t know what she’s talking about)

Office drones, how has the recession affected your workplace merry-making?

You should totally pay for your own holiday party [Budgets Are Sexy]


Edit Your Comment

  1. tkates says:

    We had the same party that we always do — a nice spread from Whole Foods and a two-hour lunch break to eat it in.

  2. SkittleKicks says:

    We had to fund ours entirely through raffles and “jean days” where we paid $5 to wear jeans. And still ended up with a cash bar. I think next year they should just let us go home at noon for that day – happy holidays, get some rest.

  3. Anathema777 says:

    We had a series of lunches in December instead of a big holiday party, along with some fun things like a cooking contest and a trivia tournament.

    I actually really enjoyed it all and since our company is a small business, I appreciated that they were taking care of their budget.

  4. lv_spiff says:

    Ours went from catered lunch and an afternoon off to a pot luck and a pat on the back when we went back to our desks

  5. qbubbles says:

    Our holiday party was the same as it always is. Company rented out the Air and Space Museum, free food, free booze, free Imax movie if you wanted to see it… free everything. (No, seriously, I’m not kidding)

  6. sweetpea12 says:

    In lieu of a holiday party, they offered us 2 extra paid vacation days.

    • Noadi says:

      That sounds like a fair trade to me as a person who doesn’t enjoy parties much.

      • Alter_ego says:

        I like parties and that sounds like a fair trade to me. You could use one of your days off to go to a party, if it really meant that much to you, and still have an extra day.

    • Jonbo298 says:

      I’d take that compromise

    • Katrine says:

      As someone who has to take her vacation in one chunk (FDIC sees it as a Good Thing) I would waaaaay rather have the paid days than a party, even though I generally like my co-workers. Our holiday party is kind of lame, anyway–I have no desire to see the 70 year old battle axe who runs our branch drunk!

    • strongbow says:

      Count me in on that. Much prefer paid time off to office parties.

  7. cheepers says:

    We’re getting a Nerf gun battle/pizza party in about twenty minutes.

    • kcvaliant says:

      See that seems more fun for me and I am a 31yo man.. Well add free bar to that and it would be perfect..

  8. D0rk says:

    my companies holiday party is free mini-donuts and hot chocolate today.

  9. Kabukistar says:

    My boss took us all out to lunch at a very nice steak-house. Then, they gave us $100 (for the four of us) to buy ourselves a nice Christmas dinner. Also, they gave me a cake.

    I’m new to the company, so I don’t know what they’ve done in years past, but this is very nice.

  10. arkangel says:

    We used to have an off site Christmas party, paid for by the company. It was canceled last year because of the economy. This year, rather than skip it for two years, we were given the day before Thanksgiving off paid, (we usually have Thanksgiving and Black Friday off), and they had a catered lunch for everyone in December. Apparently, hosting the Christmas party cost so much, that they still saved money doing what they did this year.

  11. dwohio says:

    We used to have this uncomfortable “Forced Fun” party every year that I loathed. This year, they sent us home 3 hours early (yesterday) and gave everyone a 10lb spiral sliced ham and said “See you Monday”.

    I liked that a lot more than a lunch or party where you weren’t allowed to drink. That ham will feed us for the whole weekend!

  12. outsmartbullet says:

    I guess I’m a lucky one. We had two staff parties, one at work that was catered and one out at a banquet hall thing, and it was free with a full open bar for an hour followed by free beer and wine thereafter.

  13. LunaMakesThings says:

    I’m not in an office, I work at an after school program at a private school. We have had lots of budget cuts too. The school used to pay for our staff to go out to dinner at the end of the year, but not this year. So our department head (my boss’s boss’s boss) took us all out on her own dime. At first, we were all like “She shouldn’t have to pay for this! Let’s all just pay for ourselves” but she really really wanted to reward us. It was really nice of her, made us feel really valued.

  14. HogwartsProfessor says:

    We had the regular office party at a local place, but not nearly as many people went. Then yesterday the shop guys had a huge potluck. I didn’t go to the office party but the potluck was fun.

    I wish my company hadn’t wasted the money on the office party. It’s lame anyway. I’d rather have the money.

  15. DJ Charlie says:

    I used to work at a rather largish grocery store chain. While the founder of the company was still alive, EVERY employee would get a $50 bonus and a turkey dinner from the deli department. Starting the year he died (and his son took over fully) that changed to “your choice: A bag of [store brand] potato chips (plain), or a [store brand] 2 liter of soda.” Of course, layoffs began on Dec 26 that year too. Everyone who had been with the company longer than 10 years. Lucky me, I’d been there 12 years.

  16. nbs2 says:

    Company provided cold cuts? Where are they finding this kind of money? Fortune 100 company here, and we got squat. Anything we ate at our potluck was brought in by individuals. I think some managers contributed a little more, but that was out-of-pocket.

  17. thesadtomato says:

    This is my first year on the job, so I can’t compare, but apparently the only difference between this year’s holiday party and previous ones is in party quality. They used to be kind of forced, stilted, sit-down affairs planned by the big boss. This year a few staff members from across the organization planned it: open bar and a nice buffet table of cocktail party food, plus really good passed hors d’oeuvres.

  18. valueofaloonie says:

    Last year, we had a massive party at a swank downtown hotel, and we also had a huge bash for clients at the Petroleum Club here in Calgary. Oh, and there were Christmas bonuses as well. (I work in oil & gas.) All of our clients were also throwing big parties, many of which were excellent and involved free booze.

    This year? We had a potluck last Friday wherein we provided all the food…and of course, no bonuses this year! And it probably goes without saying that there was no free booze this year.

  19. cjpluta says:

    My company still had a holiday party.. Rented out a golf clubhouse and offered filet mignon and shrimp alfredo.. Plus random gifts and books. The cheesiest part was the dirty magician.

  20. tchann says:

    I’m still the newest employee at work, but my job is fantastic and the people I work for wonderful. There was a Christmas bonus check, plus a gift card (I know I know, but I’m gonna spend this thing so it’s cool) from my boss, plus an expensive luncheon at a high-class steakhouse downtown, plus an office potluck, plus an official catered Christmas Party at a bar downtown (drinks covered by the company). So, uh…what recession? >.>

    • Kishi says:

      So, what do you do for a living, where do you work, and are they hiring? =)

      • tchann says:

        I’ll attempt to maintain some amount of anonymity, but I will say I work for a small company in the television industry. And we’re not hiring, sadly, despite how often my friends ask me after I tell them about how awesome my company is. ^.^;

    • nybiker says:

      Yeah, what Kishi asked. ‘Cause my “office” party well, let’s just say there’s no office in unemployment. But your company is certainly one of the enlightened ones. I make rum balls (with Bacardi 151) every year and whatever company I working at get’s a batch. This year, I visited some former employers and I am hoping for the best.

      And to everyone reading the comments today, I say Merry Christmas / Have a Nice Day. And Happy New Year too!

  21. tbax929 says:

    My former employer used to throw huge Christmas parties in which employees were given a room at a lavish hotel; dinner was free; and the bar was open. They stopped doing that a few years ago (coincidentally, the year I was hired!) and started having it at a local bar/restaurant. They always gave away cool raffle prizes (flat screen TVs, Blue Ray DVD players, last year I got a wine fridge). This year, they just did a potluck lunch. I don’t know if they did door prizes, as I was fired a month before Christmas. Nice.

    My new employer still does the Christmas party at a hotel where they put you up for the night so you can get hammered. I like my new employer a lot more!

  22. greggen says:

    We used to have employee dinnesr, prime rib, good stuff…
    This year it was potluck… =(

  23. Fred E. says:

    Fortunately I’m not working in a an office right now but it must be nice not to have to come up with an excuse for not attending the office party!

  24. Jnetty says:

    No real holiday party this year at work. We had bagels which I had to eat while i continue to work.

  25. Elginista says:

    We had a scaled down version of previous years – a couple afternoon hours of open bar at a local pub, which was fine. In past years, it’s been open bar + full buffet + spouses/significant others in the evening, + $100 Amex gift card as we left. This year, it was employees only, mid-afternoon, and no food.

    Of course, we’ve tripled in size (from 100 to 300) in the last two years, which probably has more to do with it than the economy. (We’re a software company having our best year ever.)

    The extra time off sounds nice, though!

  26. katia802 says:

    We had bring your own food in and share it during your own lunch breaks. Basically grab a plate and eat alone at your desk. Can’t let this holiday stuff interfere with your work yanno!

  27. eys says:

    My office (small engineering firm, with the stimulus helping we’re doing okay) had a party as usual–getting a private room at a restaurant for dinner, white elephant gift exchange, with significant others invited, etc.

    My husband works for a commercial real estate firm. In 2007, they went full out and had a really nice, catered party in a the lobby of a fancy theater. In 2008, there was no party at all. This year, they had a party only open to the employees (no guests) in a nearby office building, with homemade food brought in by some employees.

  28. mk says:

    I for one was happy we didn’t have an office holiday party this year because I am one of the ones who has to help plan and communicate the stupid thing. Usually it’s in a swanky hotel and about 50% of the people in the office come. But really it’s just chatting with people you see every day and drinking. We didn’t do anything in lieu of, so many people got together and had their own thing. I like some the ways other companies did it (days off sounds nice) so if we don’t have one again next year, maybe I’ll work with the powers that be to see if we could do something similar.

  29. Kishi says:

    One of my friends was telling me that her office had an “employee appreciation” party- that was a potluck. Given that, the week prior, the office had “client appreciation” party that was catered, we agreed it was pretty obvious who management appreciated more.

    My wife’s work party was free, though. And really good food, too- there are definite advantages to being married to a woman who works at a dinner theater with a good kitchen staff.

  30. johnperkins21 says:

    My firm’s Christmas party has been canceled for the past two years, along with raises and a good percentage of holiday bonuses.

    On the other hand, my wife’s firm had a lavish holiday party at a fancy hotel in Southern California (The St. Regis) where they paid for one room night for everyone who went, and up to $250 travel expenses to get out there. Free booze all night long along with a pretty nice buffet spread. And they still gave out very nice bonuses and decent raises. I guess some places are just weathering the storm a little better than most, or they simply realize that it’s the employees that make a place run well, not management.

  31. theblackdog says:

    It hasn’t, I always had to pay to go to our office parties but that’s because I work for the feds.

    • oneandone says:

      Same here. We do potluck for branch parties, and pay-for-yourself for division-wide parties. Sometimes senior managers pay for a pizza party for us, out of their own pocket.

      We did get half a day off (govt wide) in advance, which was nice. Usually that happens anyway, but in a way that lets it have the appearance of being spontaneous. I liked getting the memo so that I could actually make plans, instead of waiting to see if my boss’s boss was going to send everyone home early.

  32. benbell says:

    Last year, at my company(a big 4 firm) each office ended up sending out emails canceling their x-mas parties. This year, no mention of a party or anything, just an email saying thank you.

  33. Garbanzo says:

    Past years, party used to be at a restaurant, each employee could bring 1 guest, open bar. Last year: at a restaurant, employees only, wine with dinner. This year: employees only, pizza and beer/sodas in the conference room. Oh, and this year they did a two-fer where it was simultaneously the holiday party and the celebration for becoming an independently traded company. I guess if this trend continues we’re looking at potluck next year.

  34. Seanumich says:

    My holiday party has been the same forever and ever. Nothing. Our company and employees have taken an attitude that those who want to socialize can with their extra days off over the holidays, and our higher than industry average salaries we do more for our families. This also helps us remain competitive against competition. As an atheist, I have always hated those who start bringing their religion into the workplace.

  35. dantsea says:

    In the past, our department has had dinner at an upscale restaurant, paid for by the company. This year, it was cocktails at a very nice lounge, with the first few rounds on the company. We all agreed that we’d much rather have the cocktail reception than the full dinner next year, too, it was much more relaxed.

  36. foofie says:

    This year, the bosslady sprang for three pizzas for the eight of us, and we held a $5 max Secret Santa in a conference room. Not too fancy, but quite a bit of fun!

  37. mythago says:

    HR departments everywhere rejoice.

  38. Torchwood says:

    The department I work in is under a budgetary constraint, so this years department party consisted of the supervisors and managers cooking up a pancake breakfast followed by a white elephant gift exchange. Even through I am on vacation, I did show up for the gift exchange.

    Having said that, if it means sacrificing the holiday party in order to keep our jobs, I say cut the party.

  39. bloodnok says:

    the trend at my firm is staff parties that are mandatory AND employee funded. hey corpse america, if you’re not going to pay, then it can’t be mandatory! forcing me pay to go to a company function is just a double insult.

  40. dark_15 says:

    We had a mini-party where we went over some company performance info over the past year, and had beer + pretzels + chips. Oh and cake too :)

    Traditionally we also had a formal company-paid party, but that got moved into early January due to December being crazy for both engineering and sales. To make up for the delay we also got Christmas Eve and New Year Eve off; normally we only get off the actual federal holiday, and the engineers are always a phone call away.

  41. calquist says:

    I work in client support and we have strict 6am – 7pm hours. So when is our holiday party? 4-6pm. Most of the employees don’t have the strict hours that my team does, but I think it is definitely a d-bag move to have a party that you won’t even allow some of your employees to attend.

    /bitter rant/

  42. Chuck Norris' wig says:

    I can’t fathom wanting to pay to attend a party to be around my co-workers. The State of Kansas, more specifically the Department of Corrections, has beaten me down over the last 12 years to the point I don’t want to spend and extra minute at work. And to add to the festive atmosphere, they are wanting to implement 12 hour shifts with rotating days off to fuck us even deeper.

  43. morganlh85 says:

    I work at a college, and in previous years they had a totally free party at a mid-range local restaurant with a huge buffet and OPEN BAR for the first few hours. But there have been huge budget crunches and the school felt it would be bad form to continue the party considering the circumstances, so we just had an informal thing at a local bar where you ate and drank on your own dime…it was pretty lame unfortunately.

  44. trujunglist says:

    we’re one of the only offices in my company that, through careful planning and budgeting, was able to get away with a free party for everyone, except that parking at the venue cost a small fee.