The Evil Presence that Lurks in the Workplace at Halloween

Originally posted by Denise Rand on

Halloween can be a very scary time of the year for HR pros! An evil presence is out to kill the efforts being put into company wellness programs—Halloween candy. Yes, it seems like Halloween becomes the end of year "kickoff party" for calorie-, sugar-, and fat-filled holiday celebrations in workplaces, sabotaging companies’ health efforts.

And besides candy, it’s a safe bet there will be plenty of orange-colored cakes, cupcakes, donuts, and even orange bagels within easy reach. However, there are some proactive steps the HR department can take to keep your employees from falling victim to a sugar rush and extra holiday pounds.

Health experts Dian Griesel, PhD, and Tom Griesel, authors of the book The TurboCharged Mind (January 2012, BSH), offer the following tips to avoid a crash:

  • Make an office resolution to keep out of the office all the extra candy that the kids brought home or that didn’t go to the trick-or-treaters.
  • Start the day by brewing a pot of pumpkin-flavored coffee or tea. This should help get coworkers in the spirit of things.
  • Bring in a variety of fruit for morning break and colored veggies for enjoyment at lunch or afternoon break.
  • Take a lunchtime walk to see the change of foliage and get some fresh autumn air.
  • If your “office bakers” must produce Halloween treats, have them try making a gluten-free, low-, or sugar-free pumpkin pie. There are even many recipes for crust-less, no-shortening versions that make things even more healthful—and easy.


Wellness Training on How to Enjoy New Year's Spirits Responsibly


Impaired driving is a life-and-death issue all year around. But it's never more so than during the holiday season when many holiday celebrations involve alcohol consumption. And one of the times alcohol consumption is a big problem on the road is around New Year's. Today's Advisor gives you tips for wellness training on this subject.

We may not want to think of the dangers of drunk and drugged driving during this festive season, because we want to be full of joy and goodwill, but we have to be realistic in order to enjoy the season safely. Consider the statistics listed under "Why It Matters."

Happy New Year!

If you're throwing a New Year's eve or New Year's Day party this year, consider serving this fruity nonalcoholic beverage at your holiday bash:

Pomegranate Ginger Spritzer

(Source: SparkRecipes -


Pomegranate Juice, 16 oz bottle

Ginger Ale, 12 oz bottle

Juice of 2 limes

Serve chilled in wine goblets. Serves 4.


If you are serving alcohol, be a responsible party host by following this advice from The National Commission Against Drunk Driving (NCADD):

  • Urge your guests to designate a driver ahead of time.
  • Collect each guest’s keys on arrival. Know the condition of your guests before returning their keys at the end of the party.
  • Plan activities so that the focus isn't just on drinking.
  • Serve a variety of foods and include nonalcoholic beverages.
  • If serving a punch containing alcohol, mix with a noncarbonated base like a fruit juice. Carbonated bases speed up the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
  • Designate one person to serve as the bartender. This will help control the number of drinks and the amount of alcohol in each drink.
  • Stop serving alcohol 60 to 90 minutes before the party’s over. Bring out dessert, coffee, and other nonalcoholic drinks.
  • Arrange a ride home for guests who’ve overindulged or invite them to spend the night.
  • Get Home Safely
  • If you're going to drink at New Year's celebrations that someone else is hosting, take these precautions to get home safely:
  • Designate a driver ahead of time. Remember, a designated driver is a nondrinking driver.
  • Take a cab or public transportation.
  • Make a reservation and spend the night.
  • Consume food, sip your drinks, and alternate with nonalcoholic beverages.
  • Ask your server about a ride home if you've been drinking to the point of impairment.


Why It Matters

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, alcohol use is involved in 40 percent of all fatal motor vehicle crashes.

The NCADD reports that on an average day, 46 people die in alcohol-related crashes.

It’s estimated that 3 in every 10 Americans will be involved in an impaired-driving-related crash some time in their life.

Alcohol involvement in vehicle crashes is highest at night (9 p.m. to 6 a.m.) and on weekends and holidays.

Americans are injured and killed on the road in record numbers during the holiday season, largely because of impaired driving.

According to NCADD, drunk driving costs Americans more than $50 billion each year in economic losses.


Office Holiday Parties Are Back, and Just as Weird as Ever

By Christopher Bonanos

The corporate holiday party is a night when everyone’s supposed to pretend there are no organizational charts, no office hierarchies. Interns can kick back with the bosses—and theoretically do more intimate things with them—and the next morning everyone’s just supposed to snap back into normal behavior, hangovers be damned.

During the boom years, startups and other profligate spenders would blow colossal amounts on these events, which were as much about chief executive ego and coolness as employee morale. That’s still happening to some extent: In 2010, the Blackstone Group (BX) rented out the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; the party centered around cutting a mammoth cake with the word “accountability” emblazoned on top. In 2011, Bridgewater Associates, a hedge fund famous in part for its parties, rented out a 10,000-seat arena for a holiday bash; while details were kept under wraps, past events have included mud wrestling. Billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, of Tudor Investment, puts on an annual light show (the “Jones-a-Palooza”) synchronized to music at his estate in Greenwich, Conn. Are the parties any less awkward for their extravagance? Not really. Even the greenest 22-year-old attendees sense they’re witnessing something unsustainable—a lot of someone’s venture capital being tossed into a fire pit.

In the cold December after the financial crisis of 2008, many companies decided to go the other way, skipping the party entirely. The employee-retention rationale kind of goes out the window when jobs are scarce and nobody is likely to leave anyway. Above the Law, a popular blog about the legal world, recently opined that big firms would be better off forgoing their joyless parties and parceling out the entertainment budget in the form of $100 gift cards to employees. Ho, ho, ho.

Some years back, I worked for a corporation whose stock price was slowly sinking, and I watched each December as the party budget withered away. First, spouses were knocked off the list; then many unrelated divisions of the company were all invited to one shared event; then, finally, the thing was canceled altogether.

Holiday parties are back, if not quite in full force. Even now that the economy is marginally better, throw a party that’s one iota nicer than your staff might expect, and it’s certain that some Grinch will mutter, “I’d rather have had a raise this year.” Battalia Winston, a firm that does an annual survey of corporate merriment, is reporting the first uptick since the crash: 91 percent of companies plan to give a party this year, the most since 2007 and a big bump from the 74 percent figure (a 25-year low) of 2011. Anthony Patrone, co-owner of a Brooklyn party-planning company called Ultra Events & Staffing, says he’s definitely noticed an improvement: “December’s always busy, but many more businesses are asking about rates this year. People are saying ‘enough is enough.’ ” David Stark, a top event planner who runs David Stark Design & Production in Brooklyn, also points to the microtrend of “corporations giving their money to Sandy relief instead of throwing the blowout bash.” Do-gooderism is a neat inoculation against employee grumpiness: They can’t complain about that.

Many parties this year will hit a middle ground between opulent and, well, nonexistent, but that won’t make them any less strange. Consider those held in the office itself. Getting hammered on the premises feels transgressive, whether it is or not. There’s actual science behind that: One British study led by the school of psychology at the University of Birmingham found that drinking in an unusual setting—the conference room, say, as opposed to your local pub—does in fact get you drunker, because your brain compensates for lowered inhibition better in familiar surroundings.

Then there are the hookups. Stark recalls one big corporate event at which he encountered “sex in a bathroom, with vomiting right before they vacated the room.” There’s also the experience of learning that your co-worker, to whom you have barely spoken two words all year, is getting a divorce/having money problems/hates the boss. A survey by Caron Treatment Centers, a drug- and alcohol-treatment service, reveals that fully one quarter of all partygoers have heard someone overshare. Puke notwithstanding, isn’t this all starting to sound like a bit of a blast?

The best thing that ever happened to a holiday party, in my experience, turned out to be its cancellation. After the old employer mentioned above turned austere, our boss said, “Oh, I’ll host something myself,” and had us all over to her house. One senior staffer mixed up gallons of very strong margaritas; three of us prepped hundreds of hors d’oeuvres. The outsiderness of the thing gave it back to us. It was no longer a line in the budget, and an assistant finished out the evening pantsless and asleep in the bathtub. It was the weirdest, warmest party—work-related or not—I can remember attending.

10 ways to limit holiday party liquor liability

The holiday season is upon us, and if you’re planning a company party or awards banquet, you might want to give some thought to your policy on alcohol.

Serving employees alcohol at company-sponsored parties and events can have serious and sometimes tragic consequences for your workers and your organization.

For example, if an employee drinks too much and gets into an accident on the way home, you could be held liable. Plus, sexual harassment complaints tend to increase when alcohol consumption goes up.

Here are some suggestions to help prevent alcohol-related problems—including sexual harassment and auto accidents—and limit your exposure to liability if you do decide to serve liquor:

  1. Don’t serve liquor. The simple solution to the problem is not to serve alcohol at all—though this may not be realistic.
  2. Limit consumption. You may be able to limit the amount people drink by having a cash bar or by providing tickets good for only two or three drinks. Also, stay away from sweet punches containing alcohol. These can make it difficult for people to tell how much alcohol they have consumed—until it’s too late.
  3. Close the bar early. One to two hours before the end of the event, stop serving alcohol. If possible, continue serving food even after the bar is closed.
  4. Have the party off-site. If the party takes place at a hotel or restaurant with a liquor license—and the facility’s employees serve the drinks—you’re less likely to be held responsible.
  5. Establish an alcohol policy. Institute a company policy to let your employees know that excessive drinking at company functions will not be tolerated. Also remind workers about the dangers of drinking and driving.
  6. Offer transportation. Make taxi vouchers available to provide the option of cab rides at company expense.
  7. Avoid company business. To help make the event a social affair, keep any discussion of business to a minimum and hold the party outside of regular business hours.
  8. Make company functions voluntary. It’s a good idea to make attendance at company parties where liquor is consumed entirely voluntary.
  9. Invite families. Inviting spouses and dates tends to make the event more of a social occasion rather than a business function.
  10. Don’t invite customers, clients, or business associates. Inviting the people your company does business with increases the likelihood that the event is an official company function.
  11. Watch for minors. The law can come down hard on you if you allow minors to drink alcohol. If a significant number of your employees are minors, or if you expect families to attend (e.g., the event is a company picnic), consider serving no alcohol at all.

Although it’s impossible to exercise absolute control over your employees, the key to avoiding liability, as well as keeping workers safe and out of legal trouble, is to do everything you can to prevent them from drinking too much and getting behind the wheel.