Workplace Costumes Could Cause a Scare

Halloween Costumes in the Workplace

Halloween can be more trick than treat for the nation’s employers, who must approach the annual holiday with an eye toward the potential pitfalls.  For some employers the pitfalls, ranging from complaints of inappropriate costumes to lost productivity, outweigh the potential positive effects on employee morale and they prohibit staff from observing the holiday in the workplace.  Some, however, may embrace the holiday, encouraging employees to wear costumes, bring candy to hand out, or even allow workers with kids to leave early to be home for trick-or-treating.  Most employers, though, simply do not give any thought to having a policy on Halloween, which could prove to be a costly oversight.  A 2007 survey by found that 37 percent of employees celebrate Halloween with co-workers, and 27 percent dress in costume.  “This can be great for building camaraderie and morale, but there definitely are some risks.  A naughty nurse costume or a costume that is racial insensitive could open the company to sexual harassment and hostile work environment claims.  Certain costumes may present safety risks in a plant or warehouse.  Meanwhile, some people are offended by the entire celebration of Halloween due to religious beliefs.  It is critical that companies be aware of the risks,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

What are the pitfalls associated with Halloween celebrations in the workplace?  How should employers and employees handle a costume that could be considered inappropriate or offensive?  How can employers strike a balance between creating a fun work environment and one that doesn’t put the company at risk?


Employers, Workers Face Challenges From Delayed Retirements

A just-released survey showing that more Americans age 50 and older plan to delay retirement presents some unique challenges to the nation’s employers.  In one respect, companies will benefit from these workers’ knowledge and experience, according to workplace authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., a global consultancy providing job search training and career coaching.  “In an era when employers are turning increasingly toward contingent or contract workers, having a stable of seasoned veterans on the payroll is vital to maintaining corporate memory.  However, there are issues related to managing a multi-generational workforce with which to contend, including the fact that these different age groups generally tend to be motivated by different factors,” said Challenger. Employers also have to be aware of the pitfalls associated with having an aging workforce that does not retire and make room for younger workers to advance within the organization.  “It is critical to have a strategy for the continued development and advancement of young talent.  If they feel like they are being held back or that they are not being challenged, they will become disengaged and either take their skills elsewhere or, worse, stick around doing the bare minimum when it comes to the quantity and quality of their output,” Challenger warned.  How should employers prepare for an aging workforce that plans to further delay retirement?  What can younger workers do to ensure they are able to advance their careers? What can older workers do to improve their chances of finding and keeping a job?

Mid-Week Bulletin: Retirement Concerns; Napping At Work

Retirement Worries May Create Workforce Gridlock

 A new survey this week showing that older Americans are more pessimistic than ever when it comes to their ability to afford retirement could be a sign that an increasing portion of the workforce will opt to continue working beyond the traditional retirement age. While continued employment will help aging Americans avoid financial hardship, it could make it increasingly difficult for younger workers to climb the employment ladder. In the widely reported survey conducted by the Employee Benefits Research Institute, nearly half of all American workers and retirees were either “not too confident” or “not at all confident” about being able to afford a comfortable retirement. There is good cause for concern for many older workers, according to the survey, which found that 52 percent of those 55 and older have less than $50,000 in retirement savings. Despite the concern and the lack of savings, only 23 percent of survey respondents have sought professional financial advice to help them plan for retirement. These trends create a lot of problems in the workforce, according to employment authority John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of global outplacement and executive coaching consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “These older workers will want to…make that, need to stay in their jobs longer. And employers may oblige, since they value the experience and increased productivity these workers bring to the table. Employers may even be able to negotiate lower salaries for the prospect of increased job security. This is great for the experienced workers trying to delay retirement, but it significantly diminishes advancement opportunities for younger workers. Of course, this could backfire for employers when these older workers finally retire and they are faced with a wide experience gap between those leaving and those who remain.” What are the pros and cons of older workers staying on the job beyond the traditional retirement age? What can companies do to ensure that younger workers have opportunities to advance within their organizations? What other employment/second career opportunities exist for experienced workers who do not want to stay in their current job or want to re-enter the workforce? Continue reading

March Madness: 1/3 of Workers Watch 3 Hours of Hoops at Work

With the first round of the 2013 NCAA Division 1 men’s basketball championship tournament set to tip off next week, the nation’s employers should be readying themselves for the inevitable drop in productivity that coincides.  One new survey found that nearly one-third of workers spend at least three hours per day following the Tournament during work hours.

In the annual “study” hated by working basketball fans everywhere, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., estimates that March Madness will cost American companies at least $134 million in “lost wages” over the first two days of the Tournament, as an estimated 3.0 million employees spend one to three hours following the basketball games instead of working.

“At the end of the day, March Madness will not even register as a blip in the overall economy.  Sequestration is going to have a far bigger impact.  Will March Madness even have an effect on a company’s bottom line?  Not at all,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“But, if you ask department managers and corporate IT managers, March Madness will definitely have an impact on the flow of work, particularly during the first week of the Tournament.  Starting the day after selection Sunday, people will be organizing office pools, researching teams and planning viewing parties.  When the games begin around noon, eastern time, on Thursday, many companies will probably notice a significant drop in Internet speeds, as employees start streaming games and clogging up the network’s bandwidth.”

A survey just released by MSN and Impulse Research found that 66 percent of workers will be following March Madness during work hours, with 20 percent expecting to spend one to two hours following games, 14 percent spending three to four hours, and 16 percent saying they will spend five hours or more watching games instead of working.

Get the full report.

Super Bowl Absenteeism: Next Year, Schedule the Day Off

Super Bowl Monday, or Black Out Bowl Monday or Beyonce Bowl Monday, is likely to see hours of wasted time, as workers nationwide discuss the unusual, if not incredibly entertaining, contest between the San Francisco 49ers and Colin Kaepernick and the Baltimore Ravens, with MVP Joe Flacco. The blackout, the source of which is still under investigation by Entergy New Orleans which produces power to the stadium, was followed by a complete momentum swing in San Francisco’s favor but didn’t stop Baltimore from winning Super Bowl XLVII. Employees and management alike will have plenty to discuss…if they come in to the office.

Super Bowl XLVI in 2012 saw the most viewers of any American event with 111.3 million, according to Sports Illustrated and Nielsen, and Nielsen expects this year to have as many if not more viewers as last year’s contest.[UPDATE: viewership was slightly down to 108 million.] So many people watch the Super Bowl, and have perhaps too good of a time doing it, that a petition has been started on to declare the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday.

Indeed, Super Bowl Monday is one of the top days for absenteeism, according to John Challenger, CEO of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. Absenteeism is difficult to measure, but could cost employers as much as 36 percent of their payrolls each year, according to a 2008 Mercer study “The Total Financial Impact of Employee Absences.” A 2005 Ciridian Institute study found that in any typical workplace, absenteeism rates range from 5 percent to 10 percent, with the greatest amount occurring in health related fields, known for long hours and stress.

Despite the inherent dangers of absenteeism for workplaces, the impact of the Super Bowl should be embraced. The discussion of the game builds camaraderie and morale, and should not be suppressed. Perhaps employers can let slide someone who comes in a little late. However, employers will probably be wary of those workers who skip out on work with unplanned absences, especially in those businesses, such as retailers, restaurants, and hospitals, that rely on shift work. For those that can, utilize technologies that let you work remotely, stay in touch with your bosses, employees, or customers, and next year, schedule the day off.

Worst Flu Season In 10 Years Could Cost Billions

With three months remaining in what is already being called the worst flu season in a decade, employers around the country are undoubtedly feeling the financial impact of increased health care costs and widespread absenteeism.  Making matters worse, according to one workplace authority, is the tendency of employees concerned about job security to keep coming to the office despite their apparent illness.

“The economy is still on shaky ground and many workers continue to be worried about losing their jobs, despite the fact that annual layoffs are at the lowest level since the late 1990s.  In this environment, workers are reluctant to call in sick or even use vacation days.  Of course, this has significant negative consequences for the workplace, where the sick worker is not only performing at a reduced capacity but also likely to infect others,” said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

The Centers for Disease Control estimates that, on average, seasonal flu outbreaks cost the nation’s employers $10.4 billion in direct costs of hospitalizations and outpatient visits.  That does not include the indirect costs related to lost productivity and absenteeism.  Continue reading

Beware Political Discussions At Work

With the presidential election fast approaching and the polar platforms of the two contenders making headlines, the debate over each candidate’s strengths and weaknesses is undoubtedly spilling over into the nation’s workplaces.

As the line blurs between employees’ work and personal lives, coworkers often become members of one’s social circle and therefore a sounding board for one’s political views and opinions.  However, while political talk in the office should not be discouraged, it is important that certain ground rules be followed, according to global outplacement consultancy Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc.

“Passions and tensions are high, especially with the general election so close, and with the Republican and Democratic candidates so different,” said John A. Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc. “Political discussion is the hallmark of a free society, but when the debate enters the workplace, it can create some significant problems Continue reading

2012 Fantasy Football Report

With less than two weeks to go before the opening kick-off in the National Football League season, the estimated 24.3 million Americans who participate in fantasy football leagues will undoubtedly spend several hours in the coming days fine-tuning their draft selections and opening-day rosters.  Unfortunately for the nation’s employers, some of the time spent on player research may come during business hours.

 According to a very rough, non-scientific, non-verifiable estimate, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., if 22.3 million American workers spend one hour each week managing their fantasy football team during the average 15-week fantasy football season, the cost to the nation’s employers in terms of wages paid to unproductive workers could approach $6.5 billion.

“Before fantasy football players around the country launch a letter-writing campaign lambasting our numbers, it is important to realize that even if this figure was verifiable and accurate, it would not even register as a blip on the economic radar,” said noted John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

Employers will not see any impact on their bottom line and, for the most part, business will proceed as usual.  However, even if the economic impact is faint, it is important to acknowledge fantasy football’s overall impact as a societal and workplace phenomenon.  Companies that embrace the growing popularity of this activity could actually see a positive impact, particularly in terms of employee sentiment and loyalty.  Those that try to squash employees’ use of time and the company Internet for fantasy football could see consequences far worse than a few distracted workers,” he noted.

How did the firm reach its estimate?  It assumed that 8.2 percent of the 24.3 million fantasy football participants (as estimated by the Fantasy Sports Trade Association) are unemployed, leaving about 22.3 million employed team managers.  The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that weekly earnings for all Americans in the second quarter averaged $773 or $19.33 per hour.  Assuming on the conservative side that fantasy football participants spend one hour each week researching stats and tweaking their rosters, the firm multiplied the $19.33 figure by the 22.3 million employed participants.  That results in a dollar amount of approximately $430.9 million each week in unproductive wages paid by employers to fantasy footballers.  Multiply that by 15 weeks and the total reaches $6.46 billion. Continue reading

Olympic Games Compete For Workers’ Attention

Workday Olympic Coverage Could Sap Productivity

With the Olympic Games officially underway over the weekend, NBC Television is barely into its 5,535 hours of coverage, including 3,500 hours of live streaming of events online.  The network hopes to match the success of the 2008 Olympic coverage that attracted an average of 27 million American viewers each day over the 17-day event.  While most viewers will catch the most popular sports during the network’s prime-time coverage, the five- to eight-hour time difference between London and America’s four time zones (11 hours for those lucky enough to live in Hawaii), means that many fans who want to watch live events will do so from their work desks.  According to workplace expert John Challenger, CEO of global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, it is difficult to pin down a monetary value of the lost productivity that could result from employees watching the Olympics.  “In reality, it will have no measureable impact on the overall economy.  Where it will be most noticeable is the IT department, which is likely to observe a significant slowdown in company Internet speeds, as bandwidth is eaten up by Olympic fans watching streaming videos from their desks,” he noted.  “At the end of the day, productivity will be no worse for wear, as employees who slacked off during the workday, stay later to complete their projects or take work home using their growing arsenal of portable technology that has helped virtually erase the line between our work lives and personal lives.”  What can employers do to ensure that the Olympic Games do not sap office productivity?  What other events are notorious for stealing employees’ attention during the workday?