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Ice skating and jugglers: Tech companies’ holiday parties are 'almost back'

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Workers who aren’t too busy with quiet quitting, fatFIRE-ing, or being quiet fired are now job cuffing, apparently. Rather than “cuffing” a romantic partner to settle down with before the weather gets cold, workers are looking for new jobs before hiring slows down for the winter months, Glassdoor spokesperson Jill Cotton told Refinery29. Job searches — like so many breakups — should pick up again in February, Cotton said.

Today, splashy in-person holiday parties are coming back to the tech industry, but even the biggest will be half the size that they were pre-pandemic. Plus, one of the few tech companies with co-CEOs is going back to having just one chief exec.

— Allison Levitsky, reporter (email | twitter)

Sleigh bells ringing

Ready to party like it’s 2019? Tech industry holiday parties are back like they haven’t been since before the pandemic, with some companies bringing in ice skating rinks, juggling lessons, and big-name entertainers.

As companies tighten their belts, this year’s parties won’t be exactly what they were in the Before Times — even Sundar Pichai warned Googlers to “try not to go over the top” this year — but some teams are still going all out.

This year’s biggest tech company holiday parties will be half the size that they were before the pandemic, according to Non Plus Ultra, the venue and events company that hosted Meta’s lavish 2019 Game of Thrones-themed year-end bash. (This year, Meta’s holiday parties will “likely happen on a team by team basis depending on office/site/location,” spokesperson Tracy Clayton told me.)

  • NPU is working on parties of up to 2,500 to 3,000 people this year, down from 5,000 to 6,000 pre-COVID-19, according to Shannon White, NPU’s Bay Area general manager. “We’re almost back,” White said.
  • Parties this year are going to be “a little bit more toned down” than in 2019, White said, but some will still be flashy. One company asked NPU about installing an ice skating rink at its party, White said, which is “definitely doable in some of the bigger spaces that we have.”

Salesloft, a 915-person sales software maker, is spending “well over seven figures” on its three holiday parties, which will be the company’s first IRL year-end celebrations since before the pandemic, according to VP of people Katie Cox Branham.

  • The parties are planned for Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, the Gherkin in London, and Casa Pedro Loza, an 1848 mansion-turned-hotel in Guadalajara. (The company has offices in all three cities.)
  • “There’s still something so special and magical about bringing people together and not being on Zoom,” Branham told me. “That being a priority, we did prioritize this in our budget.”

Companies this year are split between in-person bashes and taking a more virtual approach with mailed gifts, according to Phoenix Anna Porcelli, VP of sales at Convene.

  • “Hybrid is much less of a focus, is what we’re noticing, from a meeting and events perspective,” Porcelli said.
  • Clients are bringing in jugglers, hot chocolate stands, and carolers, according to Porcelli. “Companies are using holiday parties as a way to bring folks back to the office and entice them with really unique experiences,” Porcelli said. “Celebrity chefs, different stations, unique culinary options, and unique venues.”
  • One major difference has been the cadence of bookings. Pre-pandemic, companies started planning holiday parties four to six months in advance. This year, HR teams started calling after Labor Day and inquiries are still coming in, according to Porcelli and White.

Then there are the companies that won’t be doing much at all. Deque Systems, a digital accessibility company, hasn’t had a virtual or IRL holiday party in a decade, according to Glenda Sims, Deque’s chief information accessibility officer.

  • Around 25% of Deque’s more than 300 employees are based outside the U.S., and having a party in December seemed too aligned with a “traditional, dare I say, Christian American holiday season,” Sims said. “It becomes kind of odd to say, ‘Oh, we’re having a holiday party’ when half of your employees don’t even celebrate that holiday.”
  • That said, Deque is looking forward to its companywide virtual meeting in April. “We do know how to party,” Sims said. “We just don’t do it related to holidays.”

Another co-CEO model bites the dust

One of the only tech companies with co-CEOs, the cloud security vendor Lacework went back to having just one CEO this week. David Hatfield has stepped down, but will remain on the company’s board, Protocol’s Kyle Alspach reported.

Hatfield took over as CEO last year, and a few months later was joined by Facebook’s Jay Parikh as co-CEO. Parikh has focused on product and engineering at Lacework and told Alspach the move was planned and amicable. “Unifying the company” under a single CEO made sense right now, Parikh said.

Other companies that have had two CEOs but gone back to one in recent years include SAP and Oracle (which has had one CEO since co-CEO Mark Hurd’s death in 2019). Salesforce named Bret Taylor co-CEO to Marc Benioff last November.

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By the numbers

Two-thirds of companies say they’re not fully ready to post pay ranges in job ads to comply with pay transparency laws like SB 1162 (which goes into effect in California in January), according to a new report from Syndio, a workplace equity software provider.

  • Out of 400 respondents in HR, Total Rewards, and DE&I departments, 35% said their companies were already posting pay ranges or ready to do so.
  • One in five respondents said their company was almost ready, one in three said their company was somewhat ready, and one in 10 said their company was not ready, Syndio found.

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating, or sinking. We’re here to help.

⬇️ Meta’s directive to designate 15% of employees as “needs support” in reviews could affect 12,000 workers, Insider reports.

⬇️ Amazon is halting hiring in its retail business for the year, according to The New York Times.

⬇️ Peloton is cutting another 500 jobs as the fitness bike maker gets “focused on growth,” as CEO Barry McCarthy told CNBC.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.


Today, we expect instant results from our every action, from calling an Uber to ordering takeout. Companies no longer can afford to not adopt technologies like automation. We are now living in the Automation Economy – a new world that requires agility and a complete reimagining of how we work.

Learn more

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

Meta is shrinking and rearranging offices, and may let some leases lapse or consolidate floors. (WSJ)

Hotel occupancy in downtown San Francisco almost hit 2019 levels during Dreamforce. (Axios)

Remote workers are likely to be laid off first, according to a survey of 3,000 managers from the presentation software provider (MarketWatch)

Most of us aren’t working from the beach, it turns out: Remote work is most dominant in big cities. (Bloomberg)

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