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Survey shows fewer plan to gift co-workers this year

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Despite a predicted uptick in consumer spending during the months of November and December,  the National Retail Federation said more American workers are likely to leave their office colleagues off their shopping lists this holiday season. 

According to the "WorkSphere" survey from national staffing company Spherion and conducted online in November 2015 by Harris Poll among over 1,000 adults employed full or part time, employees plan to give less and spend less on workplace gifts this year, the NRF said.

Fewer workers this year than last plan to give gifts to nearly everyone in their workplace, with only 31 percent planning to give gifts to co-workers at their level (down from 38 percent in 2014), 28 percent planning to give gifts to the boss (down from 34 percent in 2014), and 19 percent planning to give gifts to colleagues (down from 24 percent in 2014). The number of workers planning to give gifts to their direct reports remained steady at 17 percent, down only slightly from 18 percent last year.

Further, those who do still plan to give gifts in the workplace will likely spend less in 2015 than in 2014. American workers anticipate spending an average of $17 less on gifts for their immediate colleagues this year than last. Direct reports, bosses and other office mates also should expect to receive less, with the amount workers plan to spend on these groups decreasing by an average of $10-$14 this season.

"While many offices and their workers want to acknowledge the holiday season within the workplace, many are struggling to find the right balance in making sure all employees feel comfortable and can enjoy celebrating," said Sandy Mazur, division president at Spherion. "As the holiday season draws closer, it's important for companies and their workers to be transparent and set ground rules for gift giving, decor and events that match their office culture, while also promoting the fun and camaraderie that this time of year is all about."

Overall, about half of companies plan to celebrate the holiday season as an office (51 percent), with 58 percent of workers noting their company typically acknowledges specific holidays during the period between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. However, this practice seems to go against the opinions of a significant number of American workers. Forty-four percent think their company should host a general end-of-year celebration, not specific to religious or cultural beliefs, while 19 percent of companies already have plans to host a non-denominational "holiday party" this year.

The survey found several other interesting trends surrounding how companies and their employees are planning to approach the holiday season:

The Office as a Home for the Holidays?

  • Companies that host a seasonal celebration are almost as likely to bill it as a "Christmas" party (22 percent) as they are a "holiday" party (19 percent, respectively). Similarly, an even number of companies display holiday-specific decorations for different holidays (16 percent) as they do for just one specific holiday (15 percent). One-in-five also do not typically acknowledge specific holidays at all during the holiday season.

'Tis the Season of Appreciation

  • 55 percent of workers think the reason their company plans to celebrate the upcoming holiday season is to thank employees and show appreciation for their work throughout the year.
  • More than half (53 percent) of workers would give their company a grade of "B" or higher for their success in making all employees feel included and appreciated during the holiday season.
  • Among those who plan to buy gifts for people at work, 44 percent would give gifts anyway to people who do not celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa to make them feel included.

Unwrapping Workplace Gift-Giving Challenges

  • The pressure of having to buy something for everyone is a detractor again this year for those who do not plan to buy gifts, with 41 percent of workers saying it's just too much. Nearly one in five workers who won't buy gifts are concerned with perceptions of trying to gain favoritism.
  • As the structure of the traditional workplace shifts, 18 percent of workers say one reason their company isn't planning to celebrate the upcoming holiday season is because employees are too spread out and there is no central location for everyone to celebrate.
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