Work Holiday Parties Continue to Slump in 2010

The silver lining, however, is that there is going to be a renewed effort from companies on improving employee morale in the coming year with increased hiring and pay raises.

Bah, humbug. Santa's not bringing a nice dinner and drinks to many workers this holiday season.

Corporate holiday parties are suffering right along with the economy as nearly a quarter of companies are forgoing Christmas celebrations, contends data released by New York-based executive search firm Amrop Battalia Winston. The firm found 2010 to be the worst on record for holiday party participation, with only 77 percent of 103 companies polled giving back to employees with a holiday party.

ABW, which has been tracking holiday party participation for 22 years, found 2010 to be worse than the 2008 and 2009 numbers of 81 percent. Why the slump? Over half of the survey respondents feel a year-end party is not appropriate given tenuous economic conditions. More than a quarter of companies that are not having a party say they simply cannot afford to have one right now.

"There remains a deep divide in organizations' economic outlook and how they perceive their 2010 performance accordingly," said ABW CEO Dale Winston in a Nov. 15 statement. "Fundamentally, those having holiday parties this year are much more optimistic about the year ahead, while those not having parties are more pessimistic."

The biggest loser in all of this appears to be charities, as less than half (47 percent) will be participating in charity-related efforts this year. In 2009, 66 percent of companies did charity outreach, and in 2008, 74 percent of companies participated. For the corporations that are giving to charities, 79 percent of them are giving funds or items.

For those companies that are throwing parties this season, the free drinks will be flowing more than last year-79 percent of companies are including free booze, up from the low 70s in 2009 and 2008, but far short of the highest levels in 2000 of 90 percent. Seventy-six percent of companies having parties will have them in a restaurant.

"While we have seen the lowest number of holiday parties in the survey's history this year, we anticipate that this is merely a 'blip on the radar' and there will be a stronger showing this time next year as the U.S. economy gets a stronger foothold in the recovery," said Winston.

Companies nevertheless want to boost morale in 2011, with more than 30 percent of them intending to give pay raises and 55 percent expecting to grow and hire.