However you look at a calendar, Halloween is just around the corner – waiting to excite or spook you! Halloween is one of those bizarre days that isn’t a national holiday but certainly feels like it to employees (and school-aged kids) across America. And over the years, anticipation for the office Halloween party, costume contest, cubicle trick-or-treating and office pranks is on high alert.
So while you will have to accept that a little less work will get done on Halloween, there are also plenty of ways to improve morale, focus your employees, and not completely write off the day.
Queen of Office Parties
My daughter-in-law, Christina, a supervisor for a large medical center, is the queen of planning company “morale boosting” parties. Her ideas run the gamut from office Olympics to an NFL opening day tailgate party (which according to her VP, was the talk of the floor) to monthly themed potlucks. Halloween is one her favorites.
Christmas may be the big corporate-paid party of the year, but Halloween is the party that each employee gets to participate in. Celebrating Halloween at work appeals to the child in each of us and helps create a motivational, team work-oriented work culture.
Mug shot of Christina with a co-worker at her office Halloween party
Halloween Activities for Your Office that Keep Employees Motivated
Thanks to Christina, the Balance, and Branding Beat, here are nine office Halloween ideas will that spark your creative thinking and open up the world of possibilities for celebrating Halloween at work.
1. Have a costume contest and parade
Encourage people to wear their costume to work for the day. Or, you can make the celebration more elaborate and hold an official parade of costumed employees throughout the company.
Have multiple categories of awards:
- Best costume
- Funniest costume
- Most sophisticated costume
- Costume that took the most work to make
- Scariest costume
- Most creative costume
Advertise the awards in advance and provide a thoughtful gift to the winners such as a Starbucks gift card or a gift certificate to a local restaurant or an afternoon off. (I vote for the afternoon off!)
We have a costume contest each year at work and there are always lots of creative costumes. It makes for a fun day and my mime costume won this year, yeah!
For offices with many departments (e.g., sales, marketing, accounting, tech, etc.), assign a theme to each department or by floor or division. Add an award to the list above for the best theme. Winning group gets a pizza party or an adventure to the local museum.
Halloween at In-Shape HQ is crazy. Each dept has a theme. We are the Villains! I am @disneymaleficent #marketingteam @inshapeclubs.
→Make sure you read the section below on office-appropriate Halloween costumes! And, the one after that on what not to wear – just don’t!
2 – Host an Office Halloween Breakfast
Cider and doughnuts make a yummy breakfast treat for Halloween. So might pumpkin and apple bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin coffee cake, or pumpkin and apple muffins. For healthy eating, assorted fruits top off the meal, and do make the breakfast a team building celebration.
→Make sure to ask employees to spend some time together rather than retreating with their breakfast to their office or cubicle.
A couple of ideas for your menu:
Spooky Eyeball Recipe
- Cook egg in a little butter, don’t flip
- When done, add ketchup for the veins and a slice of black olive for the pupil
Mummy Sausage Dogs
- Use sausage links and a tube of biscuits
- Place a biscuit on a flat surface and roll out with the palm of your hand, cut thin strips with a knife
- Wrap strips around the sausage
- Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or according to directions on box
- Add ketchup for eyes
3 – Halloween Luncheon
You can make a Halloween at the office luncheon as seasonal as breakfast. Or, you can order pizza, sandwich wraps, sub sandwiches, or any other lunch menu.
You can even host a Halloween potluck contest, similar to the costume contest. Give awards for the scariest looking dish, best use of blood (i.e., the color red), craziest use of guacamole and best decor.
The image below has my vote for the best Halloween table decoration:
With dishes ranging from Dirt Pudding to Cincinnati Death Dip, our Chicago office enjoyed a spooky lunch filled with creepy food and cheesy horror movies. Our potluck winner was editor Suzie Moore with her awesomely horrific ‘Monster Mashed Potato’.
And this dish wins for Guacamole (yum?) with tortilla chips:
Martha Stewart has even gotten in on the office Halloween fun with her 13 Hauntingly Good Halloween Potluck Ideas.
4 – Halloween Office and Cubicle Decorations
Synthetic cobwebs, plastic spiders, and craft pumpkins are essential for creating creepy office holiday decor.
Take some caution tape and webbing and drape it across cubicles, desks, ceilings, and walls. Randomly scatter hand prints (dipped in blood) and plastic spiders throughout for a more realistic effect.
Don’t hold back your artistic urges. Give the office a unique thematic feel and make this an office competition!
Offer prizes for best and most festively decorated work area. You can give awards like the awards suggested above for costumes.
→Enhance the team building aspects of this competition by encouraging groups of people to work together to decorate their shared work area.
If you succeed in making your cubicle into a character, take it a step further and embellish other office items with the Halloween spirit.
5 – Pumpkin Carving Contests
Start at around 4 p.m. so that staff can bring their children in for the pumpkin carving contest. Parents can bring older children to help and younger kids to watch if you choose to make this a family adventure.
Or, better yet:
→Make pumpkin carving a contest between individual employees or groups of employees. Either option is a fun, creative team building opportunity.
Pick a pumpkin face and start working. Get everybody in the office involved!
6 – Trick or Treating (Without the Tricking)
Not just for children, you can encourage all employees to bring treats to share and employees can go cubicle to cubicle or door to door trick or treating. Provide each employee with a Halloween trick or treat bag for fun.
7 – Schedule Philanthropic Activities for Volunteers
If your coworkers are going to be a little antsy, you might as well pour all that energy into some volunteering. Contact a local charity, soup kitchen, or animal shelter to see if you and some of your employees can volunteer for the day.
→It can be both inspiring and gratifying to give back to your community with the support of your company through philanthropy, volunteerism, and leadership.
8 – Bobbing for Apples and Other Games
Increase your office morale and offer your employees a couple of ways to express their Halloween spirit. Games and activities are a great choice because they are easy to set up and only take about 30-60 minutes to complete.
Try out one of these:
- Office decorating contest: spookiest set-up wins
- Guess how many candy corn pieces are in a jar
- Play the mummy wrap game with toilet paper or streamers
- Pumpkin bowling – yes, this is a real thing!
And, you can’t forget the ole, bob for apple game…
Bobbing for apples is a tradition many of your employees will decide to skip, but it’s fun for those who are interested. It’s a laughter generator for those who are not. Team building games and activities that are active in nature and without the potential to embarrass, work best for Halloween celebrations at work.
Work-Appropriate Halloween Costumes That Keep It Classy
It’s always fun to rock Halloween costumes at work — you get to spice up your regular day with some fun festivities and bond with co-workers over your cute costume inspiration.
But — and this is a big “but” — don’t make the mistake of taking your outfit too far. So as much as you’d like to all dress up as a “sexy grocery store clerk,” you definitely will want to tone down your costume so that it’s appropriate for work.
With help from Pinterest and Brit + Co’s post on 130 Winning Group Halloween Costume Ideas, we’ve rounded up some ideas that are creative, easy to do, and still, keep it classy.
Everyone’s favorite Netflix show gets a second chance at being your group’s signature look this Halloween. Try not to get into a knife fight over who gets to wear the orange jumper.
2 – Dominoes
Grab your co-workers, pool together all the black clothes you have and decorate with plenty of sticky tape, and white paper. That’s all it takes to make this cute costume.
3 – Gangnam Style
Grab your dancing co-workers and get ready to go Gangnam style. Make sure you all perfect your gallop shimmy before hitting the parade route.
4 – Office Super Heroines!
Christina and her staff, strut their Halloween super strength.
And, don’t let a curmudgeonly boss or corporate policies ruin your office Halloween fun!
Christina to the rescue…
I think this says it all, “They told us we couldn’t dress up for Halloween, so we just wore superhero socks!”
Trick or Treat? Inappropriate Halloween Costumes are HR’s Worst Nightmare
It goes without saying, but just in case you need a visual reminder, we recommend not wearing any of these costumes to the office Halloween party.
There are different levels of conservatism in every workplace when it comes to how far you can push the envelope. But in most offices, you don’t want to wear a costume that offends a certain ethic group or goes crazy on the sex-pot-o-meter. – Shanti Atkins, President and CEO of ELT, an ethics and workplace compliance training firm
Inappropriate office Halloween costumes
1 – Pregnant School Girl Costume
Just don’t! While it is rather comical and could get a laugh or two, we don’t recommend wearing something like this to an office party. It could come off as offensive or just un-tasteful.
2 – Sexy Olaf
Just don’t! Apparently, the sexy variation of Olaf, the snowman from Disney’s Frozen is one of the hottest costumes this year. The costume might be a hit at the party, but you’ll likely have to endure lasciviously whistled renditions of “Let It Go” every time you walk the sales floor between now and Thanksgiving.
3 – Plug & Socket Costume
Just don’t! If you are bringing your spouse or significant other to the office Halloween party, we would recommend staying away from this one. It’s funny (kind of), but not worth it. Keep the couple’s costumes PG and avoid the innuendos.
4 – Janitor/Warehouse Worker/Manual Laborer
Just don’t! Every so often, some desk jockey, usually a skinny suit wearing, Audi driving, Red Bull-guzzling junior executive type assumes the whole office will find it hilarious if he dresses up in the manner of some occupation that is clearly several stations beneath him. We don’t, and it’s not.
Last, but certainly not least:
5 – Untitled
Keep HR Happy! Let the festivities begin!
Thank you, Christina, the office party queen, for the inspiration for this post and impressive morale-boosting office Halloween ideas!
For further “office” inspiration, check out our posts on:
- Boss’s Day: Perfect Last-Minute Gift Ideas for Boss’s Day
- April Fool’s Day: 37 Awesome Office Pranks That Will Make You Want to Work Alone
- Unique gift ideas for a small business owner
- Job-safe New Year cards for your boss and customer
- Awesome ideas for a white elephant gift exchange