How Wall Street, law firms, and beyond are doing the office holiday party this year, from a 29-hour streaming shindig to gifted Hermès bags

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Ah, your office’s winter holiday party. A time for themed drinks and regrettable sing-alongs. A time to reflect on the year with colleagues and deal with a headache the next morning.

And if it’s the end of 2020, and you work in finance or at a big law firm, it’s a time to sit on a Zoom call for another hour (but this time, it’s for a professionally planned party) and open up the fancy gifts your employer sent home — like a Hermès travel bag or snacks and beverages to eat together, apart.

Firms known for their opulent year-end parties are ditching in-person events for safe and often cheaper remote alternatives during the coronavirus pandemic, companies and event planners around the US said in interviews.

Company leaders are concerned about adhering to safety measures as new coronavirus cases have spiked to devastating new levels around the US this month. They’ve canceled even small socially distant in-person plans and opted for fully remote gatherings, plugged-in party planners told us.

They are also just as worried about the optics of spending money for fun and games as firms tighten their belts during the economic turmoil and some resume layoffs, a sentiment reminiscent of those around parties in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. 

The global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas estimated that just 23% of all companies it polled said they planned to hold holiday parties, down from 76% a year ago.

Most of those will be virtual events, according to its October survey of 189 US human-resources representatives across industries. Just over 1% of them said they planned to hold in-person gatherings “without any precautions.”

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Firms don’t want to have a ‘let them eat cake’ moment

Up until mid-November, two of Marcy Blum’s financial-services clients had planned to hold small socially distanced holiday dinners for senior leadership. Then new coronavirus cases started rising aggressively.

Blum is a veteran event planner who founded the New York-based Marcy Blum Associates and has been noted for planning soirées like LeBron James’ secretive 2013 wedding. She was touring a yacht in Miami for an event there — where guests will receive on-site tests — when we called her one recent afternoon. A client was looking to hold an outdoor birthday party after initial plans for gathering at a nearby hotel were thrown out the window. 

Blum has held large in-person events for the two financial clients, one a bank in the Midwest and one a New York-based hedge fund, for the past few years. Blum, along with the other event planners we spoke with for this story, declined to specify her clients. 

Since both clients recently pulled back on plans to hold in-person events, Blum will help send out packages to the firms’ employees: One will come with food and beverages, and the other is still being planned.

Corporate clients are concerned with the optics of an in-person or over-the-top gathering, Blum said. 

“In the best scenario, they don’t want to look like they are throwing money away,” she …read more

Source:: Businessinsider – Finance


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