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Office Holiday Cheer Outlook: More Merry, More Bright for 2011

Employee surrounded by falling gifts at the officeThe holidays are upon us, and you know what that means: A lot of wide-eyed excitement, crackling fires, fresh-baked treats, gatherings with loved ones, snowball fights, and more perks at work like bonuses, parties and gifts.

Wait, what was that last part? More perks in the workplace, just in time for the wallet-emptying tendencies of the holidays? Yes — but just how much extra merriment will workers see this season? Let’s take a look. (See the infographic)

2011 Holiday Perk Highlights:

Bonuses: less frosty

  • Forty percent of employers plan to give their employees holiday bonuses this year, up from 33 percent in 2010. 
  • Among that group, 73 percent are planning to give the same amount as last year. 
  • Fourteen percent plan to provide greater bonus than last year, while 13 percent plan to provide less.

Parties: Mingling on the rise-

  • Fifty-eight percent of employers are planning a holiday party for their employees this year, up from 52 percent in 2010.
  • Thirty-six percent of workers say they plan to attend their holiday party this year.

Gifts: Naughty or nice?

  • Thirty percent of employers plan to give holiday gifts, up from 29 percent in 2010. 
  • Holiday perks in the office aren’t just coming from corporate; 22 percent of workers say they plan to buy holidays gifts for co-workers this year, with the same percentage planning to buy their boss something. 
  • While gifting may be up, extravagance is still down: The majority (78 percent) of workers say they plan to spend $25 or less on average for each holiday gift they buy for the office. Thirty-eight percent plan to spend $10 or less and 12 percent plan to spend less than $5.

 Take a closer look at 2011′s Office Holiday Cheer Outlook:

Holiday Perks on the Upswing in 2011

A little really does go a long way

As we’ve discussed before, it doesn’t cost a large — or small — fortune to provide employees with some extra cheer this holiday season (or all year round). The price of the perfect holiday bonus is less than you might think, and a little really can stretch fairly far for your employees, many of whom are just happy to be recognized and appreciated. This season, consider budget-friendly alternatives that will avoid breaking the bank (and breaking your employees’ hearts):

  • The gift of laughter: Take that holiday sweater with the light-up bells on it (c’mon, you know the one) and wear it — to work. Dressing up, or down, as the case may be, can actually do wonders for building morale and sparking holiday cheer at the office. Pick a day for everyone to don their favorite gaudy, holiday-themed sweaters and other gear, and to sweeten the pot, have employees vote on the most outrageous sweater for a prize.
  • The gift of financial preparedness. Help employees be realistic in their holiday budgeting this holiday season. Workers often need to budget more carefully around the holidays, so let your employees know upfront and early whether or not they can expect a bonus this season. This way, they will be able to gauge whether they’ll have that extra money for a plane ticket. Give your employees the gift of preparedness; their pocketbooks will thank you.
  • The gift of giving. Volunteering is a great workplace activity all year ’round, but if you’re looking for an alternative to the typical holiday bash, helping others in need by donating time to local charities is the perfect solution. Volunteering with your team or company still allows you to be out of the office in a social setting while fostering your holiday spirit, giving back to your local community, and making the holiday a bit nicer for someone else. Sites like VolunteerMatch let you search for volunteer opportunities in your local area. Get more tips about finding a charity, find an extensive list of charities, and check out the Better Business Bureau’s “Charities and Donors” section for more resources.
  • The gift of fun. Who doesn’t love food — especially when it’s home-cooked? Even if your company isn’t planning on a holiday party this year, you can still  celebrate the season with your employees with some warm drinks and hot food. Office potlucks are a great way to share good food and conversation with employees, and it doesn’t have to cost much. Even better, as commuting after work hours can sometimes present obstacles for employees, you can host a potluck breakfast or lunch during the work day. (Alternative idea: screen a movie of your employees’ choosing, pop some popcorn and provide sodas, and have a low-key but entertaining in-office party.)
  • The gift of appreciation. While material gifts are nice, sometimes nothing is better than getting a bit of recognition for work well done, whether it’s for a single project or an entire financial quarter’s worth of blood, sweat and tears. As we have learned, 79 of employees who quit their jobs cite a lack of appreciation as a key reason for leaving. Remember to say “thank you” to your employees this holiday season! Even small gestures, like a  card or letter with your sincere words of thanks can mean a lot to your employees. Spontaneity of gestures can also be a nice change in the work routine; grab your employees coffee and bagels unexpectedly one morning — or dream up your own creative way to say “thanks.”

  • The gift of friends and family. While employees may enjoy coming to work, they may in fact be longing to spend more time with loved ones outside the office, especially around the holidays. Yes, businesses are busier than ever, often juggling fewer people and more work — but your employees will enjoy and appreciate even a small break from the grind. Consider letting them leave a bit early one afternoon, or offer a flexible work option for a week or two, like coming in early/leaving early, or working four 10-hour days so they can take a long weekend. Different options will work for different types of businesses — but employees will savor the gift of more time with loved ones — and they’ll likely come back more refreshed, relaxed, and focused post-holiday.
  • The gift of choice. One final idea: Ask your employees what they want this holiday season. Let them know that you want to celebrate with them and show them your gratitude for their work and dedication. Let them brainstorm ideas, and pick one or implement them all.

Need more inspiration? Check out these 15 ways to have fun at work (on the cheap), from the mouths of employees themselves.

Is your company giving more bonuses, gifts and parties this holiday season? How important do you think these perks are to employees?



Amy K. McDonnell

About Amy K. McDonnell

Originally hailing from Ohio, Amy is the editorial manager on the content services team and has been with both CareerBuilder and the city of Chicago for nearly a decade. She writes on a range of recruitment topics on The Hiring Site, striving to bring a dose of clarity and humor to sometimes complicated issues around employee attraction, engagement and retention. When she's not working, Amy spends as much time as possible reading, pretending to be a chef, writing short stories, eating Nutella out of the jar, waiting for CTA buses and trains, going to see her favorite bands live, and spending time with people who inspire and challenge her.


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