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Halloween in the Office: Tips for Wicked Work Celebrations

Where's the safest place to hide in a zombie apocalypse?

....The living room!

Yeah I can hear you groaning from here. Bad jokes aside Halloween is creeping up fast. Is your company ready?

Halloween is a great holiday to celebrate at work because it inspires creativity and playfulness. It gives your staff the chance to be silly together, defuse tensions, and have a well-deserved break from the usual workplace humdrum.

Of course, like any company festivities there are do’s and don’ts for ensuring everyone has a great day and feels comfortable. Follow these tips for happy hauntings at your workplace this Halloween!



1. Do Share the Responsibility

Unless your business is very small (e.g. under 20 people) organising an awesome Halloween day can be stressful. You don’t want one person to feel burdened by the pressure - so why not distribute responsibility among a group of volunteers? 

Your ‘committee’ doesn’t have to be super formal - just a little team to plan activities, make announcements and put up decorations on the day. Having members from different departments, ages and backgrounds is a good idea.

The committee should also set guidelines for appropriate behaviour on the day. Email staff beforehand outlining any rules about costumes or drinking (this is especially important if clients will be visiting your office). Don’t forget to mention the fun stuff too - let everyone know what the theme will be, whether there’s prizes for best dressed, etc!

2. Do Dress Up

If dressing up is encouraged at your workplace make sure you join in the fun! Fancy dress is great for team building and gives you a chance to show off your personality. This is especially important for bosses and upper management - it helps to show that you care about your staff and the company culture. Failure to get involved can make you seem aloof.

Finding a great costume for work isn’t as hard as it sounds. Witty, ironic and understated costumes tend to be the biggest workplace hits.

Feeling pressed for time? Try these lazy but clever work-appropriate costumes:

  • Shaun of the Dead

All you need is a white collared shirt, red tie, name badge and cricket bat. Put a little red stain on your pocket. Get ready to hear “You’ve got red on you” all day.

  • Mulder & Scully

Find a partner. Wear slick suits and ties (or a brown trench coat if you’re Mulder), and craft some FBI name badges. Insist to your co-workers that the truth is out there.

  • Bill Lumbergh

The famous nasty boss from the cult 90s movie Office Space. Wear some retro glasses, suspenders, and write ‘Initech’ on a coffee cup. Ask everyone for their TPS reports.

  • Facebook

As seen on The Office. Write ‘Book’ on your face. That is all.

  • Business Cow-sual

Everyone loves a good pun. How you transform into a cow is up to you - try cut out black paper patches stuck onto a white onesie. Wear a cowbell to be extra annoying.

  • Ghostwriter

Wear a white sheet, carry a notepad and pen. Get ready for groans.

  • 50 Shades of Grey

Literally cover yourself in fifty shades of grey (paper swatches).

3. Do Decorate Creatively

Decorations make a huge difference to the office vibe. It doesn’t feel like Halloween without ghoulish props, cobwebs and severed heads hanging about. Make sure every part of the building gets some frightening props - don’t forget reception and the bathrooms.

If you want everyone to help with decorating why not make it a competition? At my last workplace HR split everyone into teams by seating groups, and we competed to decorate our team’s own area and win prizes. Everyone was happy to pitch in and there was plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour (our product dev team dressed as prison inmates and chained themselves to their desks - then denied being in costume).

Remember decorations don’t need to be expensive. $2 stores and cheap costume shops are popping up everywhere these days. Even basic stationary like tissue and craft paper can be used to great effect (e.g. red, orange and yellow ribbons to make the flames of purgatory). Use your imagination.

4. Do Have a Shared Lunch

A company lunch is a great way to bring everyone together in their costumes. If you don’t throw some kind of mingling event you risk everyone staying isolated at their desks.

The type of lunch will depend on your company’s budget. Catering is a nice treat for everyone and shows staff that management care. But if this is too expensive, a few simple store-bought snacks can be just as fun, or you could host an informal potluck. Staff can compete with each other to bring the freakiest finger food.

Some popular Halloween ‘delicacies’:

  • Eyeballs (marshmallows with red food colouring dripped to look like bloodshot veins, chocolate drops for the pupils)
  • Spiders (Oreo cookies with chocolate sticks for legs)
  • Sick Pumpkin (with a carved face and guacamole coming out of its mouth). Don’t forget to add chips for dipping.
  • Bloody Punch (dark red juice and booze if desired, a plastic hand inside makes a good centrepiece)
  • This Amazing Brain Cake



1. Don’t Wear Offensive Costumes

Sounds obvious doesn’t it? But not everyone has the same standards when it comes to decency. Offensive costumes pop up more frequently than you’d think, making Halloween a potential nightmare for HR departments.

As a general rule, your fancy dress shouldn’t be overtly sexual or revealing - don’t show more skin than you normally would. That means no naughty nurse, Borat or Tarzan costumes. Trust me when I say your workmates don’t want to see you in a loin cloth.

More importantly, don’t wear costumes that are crude, exaggerate certain body parts, or could cause ethnic and religious offense. Not sure what’s appropriate? Check out this handy infographic. You’re in the workplace and anything that could be construed as racism or harassment could turn into a serious disciplinary matter.

2. Don’t Neglect Your Own Comfort

So you’ve found a costume that’s cute, witty and totally inoffensive. Well done. But it’s wise to bring a change of clothes just in case. Your office is still a work environment, and schedules can throw things at us unexpectedly. FastCompany’s video parody of Halloween costumes in totally inappropriate work situations shows the worst possible scenarios.

You should also make sure your costume isn’t physically uncomfortable or impractical. Is your tail or butt padding going to knock over computer monitors? Are you smearing bloody fingerprints all over your keyboard? Does your wig itch like crazy after 30 minutes? Don’t sacrifice your comfort for the sake of looking cool - remember you’ve got an 8 hour shift ahead of you.

Finally, DO NOT wear glitter. Unless you actually want your co-workers to hate you. You’ll be finding it on your desk, in your hair and in the work pantry for the next 6 months.


3. Don’t Force Awkward Activities

Most adults don’t want to be forced into playing children’s games or anything remotely humiliating, especially in front of their co-workers. So forget about bobbing for apples, cutting chocolate with plastic knives or having a cheesy costume parade. It’s just going to make people feel awkward.

This is backed up by a Glassdoor survey about Halloween in the workplace. More than 400 employees and employers voted for the kind of activity they enjoy at Halloween, and games and parades were by far the least popular option. On the other hand, most people said they loved receiving candy from management, having shared lunches and dressing up with their colleagues.

So ditch the silly game ideas. Host a breakfast or lunch instead, put up awesome decorations, and let colleagues bond at their own pace. Fun cannot be forced!

4. Don’t Keep People Late

Remember that Halloween isn’t just celebrated in the workplace - it’s an important occasion for families too. Staff with young children might be eager to leave work and get home for trick or treating. Don’t expect people to stay late drinking with co-workers if they have these commitments.

As a nice gesture managers might want to schedule an early finish for everyone. Staff can either choose to hit the bar with their colleagues, or beat the traffic and get home to celebrate with their kids.

Alternatively, you could let people bring their children on a tour of the office to see the decorations and costumes. Just make sure it’s not too scary for the little ones!


Halloween is always a great chance to boost staff morale and inject a little fun into your workplace. We’d love to hear your costume ideas or spooky plans for the office.

And if you’re looking further ahead towards the end of year function, check out these 10 Fun Alternative Themes for Your Office Christmas party.

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Caitlin Sisley
Caitlin Sisley is a Marketing Content Writer at WorkflowMax, and has over six years of experience in digital content production. She has worked on creative copy for a large number of New Zealand businesses - from tiny startups to household names. With a Master of Professional Studies from the University of Auckland, she is passionate about small business and corporate responsibility.

Caitlin Sisley