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Workplaces dialing down the parties

This year, the Grinch may not have stolen Christmas, but he definitely will invade workplaces. • From holiday bonuses to office parties to vacation time, expect less holiday cheer and more creativity as employers try to survive the slumping economy. • "I think we'll see less yuletide joy in workplaces this year," said Matthew Sottong, surveys director for research firm BNA. Cindy Krischer Goodman, McClatchy-Tribune Newspapers

Less time off

As the economic crisis has worsened, offices have become more short-staffed than usual and employers have been less generous with paid days off. That means getting time to visit relatives or take advantage of holiday sales will become even more of a challenge for employees.

Managers are feeling the brunt. One manager who oversees vacation time for her department told me because of tight staffing, she already had to tell a couple of people they would have to change plans for holiday weeks off with their families. Another told me she fears for her job too much to take a real vacation in which she actually unplugs from the office.

But time-off concerns are just one sign of the changing times.

Celebration cutbacks

Across the nation, companies are canceling or scaling back annual end-of-the-year holiday celebrations to cut costs, or just to accommodate the overall mood of people too worried about money to feel like a party. Two annual holiday-party surveys back up anecdotal evidence that a record number of companies have dropped holiday parties this year — more even than in 2001 after the Sept. 11 terrorist bombings.

Companies like Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Adidas Group and Viacom put the brakes on their end-of-year parties. Others are scaling back how much they spend, what they serve or how many people they invite.

Raises and bonuses

Along with downscaled parties, executives are bracing for their bank accounts to take a hit.

A new survey conducted by, an executive jobs Web site, finds that the outlook for raises and year-end bonuses is downright dismal.

Even major law firms say they are winnowing the number of associates who receive the traditional year-end bonuses.

Which makes Earth Friendly Products in Opa-locka an anomaly.

CEO Van Vlahakis will give employees four weeks' pay as a holiday bonus. Vlahakis says the green movement has been good for business. His company, which has manufacturing plants in Florida, New Jersey, Illinois and California, sells environmentally friendly cleaning products to companies such as Costco, Sam's Club and Whole Foods.

Vlahakis also gave his workers a four-day weekend for Thanksgiving and will repeat the gesture for the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

"I try to be generous to the people working for me. It's why our employees never leave us," Vlahakis said.

This year, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day all fall on Thursdays. Sottong, of research firm BNA, says smart employers will give Fridays off as a way to show appreciation on the cheap: "A day off is an easy thing to do that buys employers a lot of goodwill and doesn't cost a lot out of pocket."

Workplaces dialing down the parties 12/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, November 4, 2010 1:08pm]
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