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Tasha Blackwell, public relations manager at Integrity Home Care, helps set up for the company's holiday breakfast. Integrity chose a breakfast because it favors the schedules of health care professionals who attend.
Tasha Blackwell, public relations manager at Integrity Home Care, helps set up for the company's holiday breakfast. Integrity chose a breakfast because it favors the schedules of health care professionals who attend.

Holiday office parties on the mend

Posted online
Would local businesses’ holiday parties make Ebenezer Scrooge proud?

Not quite, but businesses appear to be following a national trend of throwing more modest holiday parties.

“I’ve seen some companies cutting back a little bit,” said Ted Amberg, owner and founder of Amberg Entertainment, a Springfield-based entertainment company that plans holiday parties.

During 2008, the recession caused many businesses to save money by skipping the parties, Amberg said.

“People got scared, and they would just forgo the parties that year,” he said.

Last year was the first in 11 for Springfield television station KOLR-10/KSFX to skip a holiday party, but this season the station’s party returns. It’s set for Dec. 18 at the Diamond Room of the Knights of Columbus Hall, said Mark Gordon, KSFX vice-president and general manager.

After the cost-cutting move last year, Gordon said the holiday party is a morale booster and reward for the station’s 110 employees.

“I think it’s kind of a celebration,” Gordon said. “It gives an opportunity to go out and have a dinner on the company. We try to make it relaxing and enjoyable.

“If you’re looking at a Christmas party as being a straight ‘Does it cost and that’s it?’ those companies could easily say, ‘Yeah, we need to stop spending that.’”

Gordon declined to disclose the cost of this year’s party or the savings by not skipping it last year but said the amount spent this year is comparable to 2008.

This holiday season, 79 percent of companies are holding holiday parties, the lowest number in three decades, according to international executive search firm Amrop Battalia Winston. The same survey indicates that 27 percent of the companies say their event will be more modest than last year.

Amberg’s local estimates seem in line with national statistics.

“People who are actually having the parties, I would say 75 percent have maintained,” Amberg said. “Those are the companies that understand those parties are structured as a thank you to their workers who are the core of any company.”

Amberg said clients’ holiday-party spending is expected to rise by 10 percent compared to December 2009, but spending remains down 7 percent to 10 percent from 2007, a high point.

He estimated that businesses are spending between $2,000 and $10,000 on holiday parties.
Some firms were just concerned about perception, Amberg said.   

“The big thing that we saw in the first big swing of the recession was that some people were cutting back not because they didn’t have the money to do it but because of the perception,”
Amberg said. “It was around that time that the big money, big financial companies were throwing multimillion-dollar bashes. They just don’t want to look like they’re spending money where they shouldn’t be.”

Bigger doesn’t mean better
Frugality may be the word of the day concerning holiday parties, but for at least one small employer, it really is the thought that counts.

For its employees, Praxair Inc. has an informal holiday party and other events scattered throughout the year that boast attendance rates of 95 percent, said Mike Strohm, facility manager.

The Danbury, Conn.-based company manufactures commercial gases.

Its 40 staff members at Praxair’s Springfield office, 1910 E. Commercial St., fund their annual party, which this year was held Dec. 11 at Smith’s Restaurant, 935 N. Glenstone Ave.

“In the past, Praxair has let us on a local level contribute some monies,” Strohm said. “With the economy the way it is, everything we’ve done this year has been potluck. We just try to keep the spirit alive whether it’s holidays or just employee camaraderie and try to enjoy each other’s company. We spend as much time at work as with our own families.”

Party times two and more
Integrity Home Care throws two annual holiday parties.

One is a breakfast for the home health company’s vendors, social workers, hospital and nursing staff, and civic club members with whom Integrity has business relationships.

“We hold it for all of our community partners and referral sources, everyone that we work with throughout the year,” said Tasha Blackwell, Integrity public relations manager.

This year’s party was scheduled Dec. 10 with a menu that included French toast, quiche, sausage and bacon.

The breakfast time was chosen because Integrity works with many health care professionals who have difficulty attending any other time.

“We’ve been doing it at least for four years,” Blackwell said, noting that last year’s breakfast was attended by about 140 people, and she expected about 120 this year.

Integrity’s other party is organized for its 900 employees. This year’s was scheduled Dec. 11 at Ramada Oasis Convention Center.

Integrity CEO Greg Horton declined to disclose the cost of this year’s events but said the amount budgeted is the same as last year.

For one of Springfield’s largest employers, throwing a single holiday bash just isn’t feasible. St. John’s Hospital has 10,000 workers in its hospitals and clinics.

For that reason, St. John’s and its clinics has held in-office holiday parties split by departments and shifts for the last 10 years, said hospital spokeswoman Cora Scott.  

Traditional events such as co-worker departmental parties, facility parties and CEO-sponsored co-worker receptions are well-attended, Scott said. St. John’s workers also participate in other activities to boost staff and patient morale at the hospital during the holiday season. Many initiatives to help patients, staff and those in the community in need are under way.
Scott said random holiday events also are included at the hospital such as a high school choir performance that was telecast inside the hospital last week.

“It’s a really neat time of year around the hospital,” Scott said.[[In-content Ad]]


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