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How to Celebrate Holidays (Inclusively) at Work

Sep 16, 2022| Reading time: 11min

BY Alex Hilleary

Principal Content Marketing Manager

While we think of holidays as times of joy and celebrations, they are also times that can spark grief and loneliness for some people. What’s more, since many holidays revolve around faith-based or cultural beliefs, employees can feel uncomfortable or belittled when certain celebrations receive more attention than others. 

Believe it or not, how you choose to celebrate holidays at work impacts your culture and employee experience. When you recognize your people’s backgrounds, you help create a culture of belonging. Alternatively, ignoring your people’s identities may lead to disengagement and increased turnover.

It’s therefore important to ask:

  • How are you creating a culture of inclusion? 
  • How are you providing education opportunities on diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) best practices when it comes to holidays? 
  • How are you using your people data to determine which holidays employees celebrate?

Below are three best practices to celebrate holidays inclusively at work to encourage a sense of belonging and honor your people’s identities. 

Employees should feel like their identities are acknowledged year-round, not just during the holiday season. Read five approaches on how leaders can create an inclusive workplace culture.

Read the blog here

Collect Employee Feedback

People decisions are like business decisions: you need data to help prioritize efforts and set a foundation for future success. Therefore, surveying your people – whether it’s throughout the year or during their onboarding – gives you insights into employee needs and requests. 

Start by providing an optional space where people can share their identities and preferences. This detail can help the People team plan better programming for employee needs. When employees have the opportunity to disclose their preferences and backgrounds, such as in a self-ID campaign, your People team can use this data to identify opportunities for cultural growth. 

Some specific holiday-related questions are:

  • What holidays would you like to see recognized in the office?
  • What cultural celebrations are important to you?
  • What else should we know about the holidays that are important to you?


DEIB holiday survey

Leaders can collect pertinent people data through various surveys. The best way to learn what your people want is by asking them. A modern people analytics platform allows you to create and send surveys, as well as store your results in one central location.

Partner with Your DEIB Leaders

Your DEIB leaders are there to constantly prioritize your company’s inclusivity efforts. Partnering with DEIB leaders helps focus on programming and initiatives, as well as ensure you use DEIB best practices throughout your organization. 

These best practices may include:

  • Creating equal emphasis on holidays. Instead of focusing on a specific holiday (we’re looking at you, Christmas tree in the office lobby), consider hosting a party that’s more inclusive. This initiative may look like a New Year’s celebration or a quarterly potluck that celebrates the holidays from the past three months. You can even allow employees to bring in decorations or dishes from their faith, culture, or family traditions to further create community and build cultural knowledge among your people.
  • Removing alcohol from gift exchanges or parties. Consider establishing guidelines for when and where alcohol is served at employee gatherings. Many people choose not to drink, so a company culture that includes bottle exchanges or alcohol-induced speeches at holiday parties may jeopardize your inclusivity efforts. 
  • Adding global holidays to your digital company calendar. An embedded calendar  helps employees avoid scheduling meetings during important holidays. Luckily, Google Calendars offers an “Add Calendars” feature with calendar add-ins for most national, religious, and cultural holidays to help make this task an easy one.

What’s more, DEIB leaders can dive further into your people data to help make the best decisions for your people moving forward. Since DEIB is an org-wide effort, DEIB leaders should hold every department accountable to related goals. Ivori Johnson, Director of DEIB at ChartHop, believes formulating benchmarks reinforces accountability and helps educate everyone in your organization on how you’re progressing toward your DEIB goals. She also explains that prioritizing DEIB company-wide “helps cultivate a culture that works toward being more inclusive and welcoming to all people and perspectives.”

And if you don’t have a dedicated DEIB leader, make sure workplace inclusivity is still top-of-mind by making it a responsibility of someone in your executive suite. That way, DEIB has its own priorities and is always a part of the conversation. 

Celebrate, Raise Awareness, and Learn

It’s important for organizations to value different life experiences, backgrounds, and ways of thinking. When that sense of belonging transcends into holidays and celebrations, you signal to your employees that they’re respected and belong. Ways to do so include offering floating holidays, creating holiday calendars, and establishing educational opportunities. 

Offer Floating Holidays

Eliminate the bias toward national and Christian-centered holidays by offering employees the opportunity to choose which days they want to recognize and celebrate with a day off of work. This allows employees to choose when and how they recognize their specific cultural celebrations. 

Create a Holiday Calendar

Bring awareness to different religious, awareness, and inclusion days and events with a company-wide holiday calendar. This will not only create a more informed, sensitive workplace environment, but will also build internal traditions and community.

Also consider incorporating monthly internal communications about upcoming holidays and encourage employees to share how they celebrate. Note: Be cognizant that you cannot share which holidays employees celebrate without permission. 

Establish Year-Round Educational Opportunities

Julie Coffman, Chief Diversity Officer in Chicago for Bain & Company, says that organizations can’t just rely on intentions and messaging to create a culture of inclusion. Instead, she argues, “real, sustainable change comes from doing.” She explains, “Making a more inclusive organization is about employees—and leaders—throughout the organization adopting new mindsets, changing behaviors, and learning to operate in and adapt to new and different systems.”

In order to shift mindsets and behaviors, establish year-round educational opportunities for your people. These activities will bring awareness and help ensure DEIB is prioritized every month, not just mentioned during certain holiday seasons.

Consider embedding the following to support DEIB practices throughout the year:

  • Schedule monthly guest speakers. One way to prioritize inclusion is to regularly schedule guest speakers for trainings, workshops, or conversations on DEIB topics. 
  • Highlight employee resource groups (ERGs). Your ERGs help ensure employees receive additional support from a community that shares their background or identity. ERGs not only help create a positive employee experience, but also guarantee that DEIB is a company priority. 
  • Create safe spaces for difficult conversations. Hosting voluntary conversations around difficult topics helps support your people and create a common understanding for allies. Olivia Stapp, co-lead to one of ChartHop’s ERGs, explains, “When you’re in a community with that common understanding and empathy, it helps you feel heard and seen in the complicated world we live in.”
  • Share opportunities outside the office. Invite the office to join in for outside activities, such as the local Pride Parade or Greek Heritage food festival. Send out an invitation, share details on where to meet, and consider meeting up beforehand.
  • Recognize employees’ preferences. Don’t assume that everyone wants the traditional holiday office party. For example, some people may observe some holidays by fasting. Others may want to avoid alcohol altogether. That’s why it’s important to understand your people’s cultures and preferences – as well as make parties optional – so everyone feels welcome and respected. 

Everyone Benefits When Holidays are Celebrated Inclusively

Work towards creating a more inclusive work environment by focusing on your people. The effect will be two-fold: you’ll not only create a better employee experience, but will also propel your business forward. 

When people feel they can show up being their whole self, they’re more likely to be innovative, engaged, and collaborative. Ultimately, when your people feel a sense of belonging, leaders are more likely to see creative solutions, increased retention, and a stronger workplace culture. 

It’s important to prioritize your DEIB efforts so that every employee feels supported and appreciated for the contributions they make to your organization. Learn four best practices on celebrating diversity and inclusion below. 

Learn how to celebrate diversity and inclusion here

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