The Office Holiday Party Should Be Replaced With Paid Time Off


It’s the most wonderful time of the year, which means most of the 99% of us working folk can look forward to some type of annual company-sponsored mandatory "fun." My experience with holiday parties has run the gamut of upscale black-tie affairs complete with professional ice skaters serving as table centerpieces, to a casual potluck. While “team building” is important, the office holiday party is a waste of money, pantyhose, enthusiasm, and time. Work settings tend to throw an eclectic mix of kids in the same cubicle sandbox, and 40 hours a week with those kids instead of one’s own children is more than plenty.

Holiday Parties Bring Out the Office Grinches

As I have been preparing my office get-together this week, I have responded to inquiries from my colleagues ranging from “can the gift I bring for the White Elephant gift exchange be alcoholic?” to “I think a $10 maximum is too much; maybe $5-7 instead.” It’s daunting to think of anything other than a Chipotle burrito that is worth exactly seven bucks, and I understand that times are tough, but the point of the White Elephant gift exchange is a game that usually turns into a fun social exchange. The point of the season should never be about the specific gift.

To give back, I also thought it was a good idea to have collect canned goods at the office for our local food bank. The General Manager told me it was a good idea, but we should consider donating to a different food bank than I suggested because “$1 will make seven meals there versus four-and-a-half meals at the other bank.” Oh, the scrutiny of charity! Who’s to say that an extra day off would not pad the time I spend in the community with any given charity of my choice?

PTO May Be More Cost-Effective

Even the casual get-togethers with my modest nonprofit group have menus budgeted around $15 per person. This does not take into account decorations, facility costs or hosted events such as bowling (which one of our offices is engaging in.) If the office closed early on a Friday and employees were left to their wiles instead of dolling up to mingle with people they spend all week with, there is more time for family, holiday shopping or finally filling out the stack of Christmas cards for friends. This can all be done in casual wear; not requiring my staple little black dress from office parties’ past which is also the dress I graduated college and buried my grandmother in. It would save me money, also, not to buy a new dress for said work social engagement.

“Holiday” Has Become Too Ambiguous

The idea of the “floating holiday” is a big deal with my Utah-based employer because there are pioneer days in July that locals proudly honor. It’s not an occasion that will close the bank or slow the mail further from its newfound crawl, but the company knows it is important to some, but an extra day off will not hurt any non-observers’ feelings. 

In the winter months, nobody can say “Christmas” on the clock; it’s just not P.C. And, we can’t assume either that if people don’t want us to say Christmas, that they are simply Jewish and that Hanukkah is a direct, interchangeable equivalent—how culturally naïve. The Holiday party, though, is a Christmas party in which the reason for the party is some unspeakable secret, offensive code word. We dress up; we have a good meal—usually including cranberries or gingerbread—and there are gifts or monetary bonuses. If it looks, walks, and quacks like a Christmas celebration, it probably is.

Here’s hoping the season means whatever it means to each of you respectively, and that you have ample time to devote the energy to celebrating the aspects of winter you see fit.

Photo Credit: peminumkopi