It’s nice to let everyone relax a little bit and show off their creativity by celebrating Halloween in the workplace, and it even adds a more social aspect to the normal work environment. Every business relies on a certain balance, however, and certain types of costumes are not appropriate for the workplace.
If you’re wondering if your costume is or isn’t appropriate to wear to the office, it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose something a little more toned down. Inappropriate costumes can actually have a real effect on your team’s efficiency throughout the day, so it’s important to draw the line somewhere because this is a high-selling season.
Here’s a quick overview of office-appropriate Halloween costumes and how they can improve morale rather than cause distractions.
Dressing up for Halloween is a fun change of pace and helps refresh employees, but it’s important to remember that the office is not Comic Con. You’re still in the workplace and you’re still doing your job, so there are rules to follow. Read below for a look at what types of costumes are okay for the office.
Work-Related Costumes — When you’re deciding on a costume to wear to the office, consider what types of things remind you of the office in the first place. Make your coworkers laugh by coming in dressed as office supplies like a giant sticky note or Clippy, the Microsoft Word Office Assistant paperclip. You could also be a pencil, a stapler, or a sharpie for an easy but clever office costume.
Traditional Halloween Characters — Many people think of Dia de Los Muertos—or Day of the Dead—when they think of Halloween, but others think of the classic spooky characters that are associated with the season. Vampires, ghosts, witches, and black cats all come to the forefront at the end of October, and they make for easy costume ideas. Your costume can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. Either way, most people will know who you are.
Retro Icons — Everyone in your office had their own upbringing, but there are some retro icons that are nearly impossible to forget about. From superheroes like Batman, Spiderman, and Wonder Woman to movie characters like the Ghostbusters or Darth Vader, there are countless inspirations for your work-safe Halloween costume. Since these characters have been so famous for so long, chances are you won’t have to explain your outfit.
Group Costumes — You can take Halloween costuming fun to the next level by dressing up with your friends. If you coordinate with your coworkers ahead of time, you can create a fun group theme for your spooky celebrations. Depending on how many people are in your group you might be the cast of the Wizard of Oz, the different hot sauce packets from Taco Bell, or Pac-Man and the ghosts that chase him.
What’s Not Appropriate
Now that you know what you can wear to the office on Halloween, it’s time to learn about what you should avoid. Even if your costume idea seems to fall into the “appropriate” category, read below to find out what doesn’t.
Cultural Insensitivity — There have been many issues that were only recently brought to the forefront of our society’s attention. Because these issues weren’t always as publicized, inappropriate costumes once flew under the radar and were considered acceptable. We are learning to be more sensitive to these previously ignored problems, so these costumes are no longer acceptable in the workplace.
Any costume that offends someone based on race, sexuality or mental or physical disability is definitely inappropriate in the workplace. This means no more cowboys and Indians, and no more “psycho ward” jumpsuits that misrepresent people with real mental health issues. It’s important that we think about the messages we give off with our costumes and how they might affect our coworkers.
Overt Sexuality — The office is not the place to display your sexuality, as it can make your coworkers, managers, and customers uncomfortable. Compare your Halloween costume to what you might wear on a casual Friday at the office. You wouldn’t show off your beach-ready abs on casual Friday, so maybe go with Knight Rider Hasselhoff instead of Baywatch Hasselhoff.
Distractions — Even though it’s Halloween and everyone is in a slightly different mental state, you still have to get your work done. If your costume impedes other workers from doing their jobs, then it’s inappropriate for the workplace. Costumes that involve loud noises or flashing lights can be distracting, so remember to respect the office and the people who work inside it.
Hazardous Props — Some costumes don’t quite work without the character’s usual prop, but not all props are welcome in the workplace. Real weapons like knives and swords are not allowed in the office, and even certain prop versions might not fly. Never bring in a prop that could potentially harm another worker or destroy property.
Jim Halpert’s Lazy Ideas
Although he was one of the most beloved characters on the show, Jim from the Office usually found a way to get out of doing work. This laziness is shown in his choice of Halloween costumes, most of which barely qualified as dressing up. If you don’t have a lot of time or patience, read about some of his simple ideas that are appropriate for work below.
Bookface — An obvious play on Facebook, Jim simply wrote the word “BOOK” across his face. He otherwise dressed normally.
Three Hole Punch — Going slightly further than the Bookface idea, Jim added three black circles to the right side of his white shirt. This is an office-friendly idea that makes use of the office theme itself and takes very little time to create.
Dave — Perhaps Jim’s laziest costume of all, all he did was write the name Dave on a “Hello my name is” sticker and put it on his normal work shirt.
Popeye — Despite his wife’s encouragement—and her corresponding costume—Jim dressed normally and carried a prop pipe to represent Popeye. Eventually, he comes around and puts on the full Popeye costume.
Consequences of Inappropriate Costumes
The rules regarding appropriate and inappropriate Halloween costumes aren’t designed to bring people down or ruin the fun. They’re designed to keep people safe and comfortable in the workplace while still letting workers have a little fun celebrating the holiday. Inappropriate costumes may offend other people in the office and create a hostile work environment, or they may make people uncomfortable and distracted while they try to focus on their work. If you wear an inappropriate costume to work, you could be subjected to discipline by your boss and a call to Human Resources.
Of course you want to win the office costume contest, but you must know how to do it appropriately. There is a time and place for your more risque Halloween getup, but it’s not during work hours and it’s not at the office. Stick to what you know is safe so you can brighten the mood and contribute to a positive Halloween celebration. Stay away from culturally insensitive and overtly sexualized costumes, and don’t wear anything too distracting or bring in hazardous props. As long as you use some common sense and think about these tips, your Halloween office party should be a blast.