Office parties make come back after lean years

When the economy took a nosedive back in 2008, companies found ways to cut back on expenses. One of the ways many businesses shrunk operating costs was to cancel the staff Christmas party.

According to event planners across the province, 2008 clocked in as the gloomiest year in decades for them.

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That also translated to dismal bookings for restaurants and other facilities where parties are usually held.

The recession resulted in major cutbacks to company budgets, and as a result we saw fewer Christmas parties, said Dax Droki, of the Adelphia Group Inc., a management and event planning company.

As things have slowly recovered, more companies are reinstating the office party, and this year, companies are going big.

One local company, which has refused to abandon its long-held tradition, is the Great Little Box Company (GLBC).

We have never skipped a party in our 29-year history, said Bob Meggy, president and CEO. We consider it way too important and imperative that we keep it going.

Its our way to thank and award our employees for all of their hard work over the year.

The Richmond company hosts two Christmas parties one for children and grandchildren of its employees, and another for employees and their spouses or significant others.

I actually love getting involved in the gift buying for the kids, said Meggy, adding his assistant Shannon Sawicki finds out from the employees exactly what their kids are wishing for from Santa this year. In fact, my office right now is filled with presents.

GLBC has an extremely low turnover rate, added Meggy, which he attributes in part to parties and golf tournaments.

I think parties and get togethers are a great way to boost morale at the office, he said. We would have to be in a real bad way before we would ever cancel our Christmas party.

At the Richmond News, publisher Lori Chalmers made a corporate decision not to cancel the Christmas bash, even though newspapers were feeling the crunch as well.

We didnt cancel it, but we altered it, made it smaller, said Chalmers. We went from a completely funded sit down dinner for employee and significant other, to a funded party for employees but the staff had to cover for their spouse.

In 2009, Postmedia Community Publishing Company put a ban on company-funded Christmas parties.

We chose to host a party because we believe its good for employee morale, said Chalmers. To this day, we continue to subsidize our yearly party, its just more low key.

Over at the Auto West Group in the Richmond Auto Mall, Jaclyn Neumann, its human resources manager said since its inception 25 years ago, the company has yet to nix the much-anticipated soiree.

Its too valuable to our company and the Christmas party allows our employees some downtime, said Neumann, of its more than 175 employee base.

Meanwhile, since Christmas parties are fodder for gossip the following week, the News asked Richmonds Imagine That Events to provide a list of dos and donts to ensure you arent too embarrassed to return to work after your office bash.

The dos & donts of the office party:

- Dont over indulge on alcohol in front of the boss. You may regret it the next morning.

- Do come dressed for the occasion. Jeans and a T-shirt is not proper attire for a company function. Look better than you do at work.

- Dont drink and drive!

- Be prepared to be embarrassed by your boss, whether its from a speech or from a hired comedian who is there to break the ice.

- Do participate in what your company has planned for you. Its all about team building and mingling with your co-workers.

- Dont flirt with your boss and keep your hands to yourself. Office gossip can be...

- A great party for your staff filled with surprises and fun can go a long way. Building company morale is the key to success.

- Reward your staff by showing them your appreciation and gratitude for a year of hard work.

- Make the party entertaining and a celebration as oppose to a work function.

- Always include the spouses and significant others.

- Cab vouchers are always a bonus.

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