Happy Halloween at work -- It's not "witchful" thinking!

As kids, we couldn't wait to dress up as our favorite action hero or fairytale princess, parade through the neighborhood and collect scads of candy. And although we’re adults now, we’re still kids at heart, looking to capture a bit of that Halloween magic. Perhaps that’s why Halloween is the third-most-celebrated holiday after Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

What about your workplace? Will you be opening your doors to ghosts, goblins and good times this week? A Halloween “happening” may be just what your company needs to ease some tension and reconnect.

The benefits are sweet

“Why should we even bother with Halloween?” you may ask. In a word, because it’s fun. Now, more than ever, employees are feeling stressed and need permission to let their hair down and blow off some steam. Celebrating Halloween (and other holidays) at work is a perfect opportunity for promoting teamwork, improving morale and incorporating a little levity into the workday. These types of celebrations also foster a more positive company culture where employees enjoy coming to work.

Here are some ways to get creative and have some fun at the office this Halloween: 

 => Dress the part -- Hold a contest for the best decorated workspace, best group costume and best individual costume. Encourage each department to meet once or twice before the big day to brainstorm themes and determine the ideal costumes to complement the theme.

=> Carve a pumpkin -- Don’t stop at costumes and decorations. Hold a competition for the best carved pumpkin, too. Distribute a pumpkin (and carving set) to each department prior to your workplace event, then see what funny, frightening or downright unusual designs they come up with. Display the pumpkins in a common area for everyone to enjoy.
=> Bring out the treats -- During lunchtime, set up a "Goodies Table" in the main lunchroom with Halloween-themed treats. In addition to the cookies and candy your company provides, request that interested employees volunteer their favorite sweets. Be sure to balance the sweet treats with some fresh apples, nuts and other healthier alternatives.
=> Award prizes -- Plan on having the management team judge all contests and at the end of the day, award prizes to the lucky winners. Store gift cards, a free lunch or a whimsical desktop award are all potential prizes. The more awards you can give out (1st through 3rd prize in each category, for example), the better.

A few words of caution …

On the one hand, Halloween is not connected with any particular religion so a diverse group of employees can enjoy the holiday. On the other hand, some religious groups take offense with the holiday’s pagan roots and reject it on that basis.

For this reason, you may want to call your workplace celebration a “Fall Festival” and make wearing costumes optional. More important, you’ll want to let employees know that revealing, offensive or off-color costumes are strictly prohibited. As an added precaution, specify these two additional costume rules: no masks and no toy weapons.

On the general safety front, discourage tricks, pranks and decorations that could scare others or pose a safety hazard.

Finally, it’s a good idea for HR to send out a memo or email outlining the guidelines for your Halloween celebration and stating that you expect all employees to be respectful and exercise good judgment.

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