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How to Celebrate Holidays (Inclusively) at Work

Jul 11, 2021| Reading time: 8min

BY Alex Hilleary

Principal Content Marketing Manager

Whether they’re faith-based or cultural, holidays and celebrations are a window into the values of your people. However, certain holidays receive more attention than others in the workplace. Workplace celebrations are tangible signals of what matters to your organization, so it’s therefore important to evaluate which traditions are being highlighted, and which ones might be missing.

Diversity of Workers Means Diversity of Holidays

A balance of perspectives leads to more innovation, 87% better decisions, and often prevents big mistakes. However, it’s unlikely that your diverse talent will share their perspectives and ideas if they don’t feel included. The first step is changing company systems and policies to reflect the diversity of your employees.

Tact and Intentionality

Rather than stress about making the perfect inclusion plan, understand that steps forward aren’t always perfect. As long as your management team is thoughtful and takes a genuine interest in the backgrounds and beliefs of their employees, the outcome is bound to be a net positive.

The First Steps

1. ASK. ASK. ASK. 

The best way to know what your employees care about is to ask. Integrate asking about what holidays employees would like to see recognized into your onboarding process and check in yearly for changes. Consider consulting with your legal advisors to know which questions are appropriate to ask, and be aware that these questions can be personal and sensitive. Keep answering entirely optional.

Some questions to consider asking: 

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

From here, this information about your employees should inform the path forward.

2. Changes to Make 

Use the right tools to hold you accountable for remembering your office’s important celebrations. Some ways to make your systems and policies inclusive:

  • Representative Leadership: Having diverse leadership in Employee Resource Groups and a variety of perspectives is the best way to avoid insensitive mistakes.
  • Floating Holidays: Offer flexibility for holiday celebrations. Consider offering floating holidays as part of your paid holiday schedule.
  • Multicultural Calendar: Upload the holidays that employees celebrate in the company calendar, or create a separate calendar to be displayed in the workplace.
  • Holiday Announcements Slack Message: Consider incorporating a monthly Slack message about holidays coming up, and offer employees the chance to include a blurb about their holiday. Always ask for permission first before sharing what employees celebrate.

Holidays + Celebrations

A guide on creating a more inclusive workplace, through intentional holiday celebrations.

Inclusive Winter Holidays

Inclusive holiday planning goes beyond the simple switch from a Christmas party to a holiday party.

Be aware of employee backgrounds

For example, don’t schedule the holiday party on a day that some employees are fasting for Ramadan.

TIP: A global holiday calendar for the busy holiday season can help to avoid scheduling a meeting during an important holiday. Google Calendars offers an “Add Calendars” feature with calendar add-ins for most countries, religions, and cultural holidays.

Be aware of alcohol

Many Muslims don’t drink, and many others prefer to avoid alcohol for other personal reasons.

TIP: Consider having the first part of the party, such as the one with speeches, announcements, and awards, be without alcohol. Then, transition to a more free-flowing event once most of the party itinerary has been covered.

Make holidays non-specific

Make sure decor isn’t super specific to any religion, and be conscious of religious and non-religious dietary restrictions.

TIP: Consider planning a New Year’s party instead of a holiday party. Let the theme of the New Year’s party be about the company’s goals for the new year, and the values that employees can rally around as part of your organization. Venue reservations before or after peak holiday season are much more affordable. These dates are often more convenient for employees as well.

Make holidays truly optional

The holidays can be a hurtful time for those experiencing depression, or the loss of a loved one that they would have celebrated with. For some, steering clear of celebrations is the best option.

TIP: Communicate that employees are not obligated to attend. Keep tabs on who may need support and make a thoughtful effort to communicate your appreciation for them.

Encourage group participation

Rather than a select few members planning the holiday celebration, allow employees to have a voice and share their stories through decor and multicultural events.

TIP: Allow employees to bring in decorations from their faith and background, so that the office can be inclusively decorated in the winter months. This decoration day also works for a potluck. Employees can opt to bring in holiday dishes from their culture, or their favorite winter treats.

Inclusive Cultural Celebrations 

Time off of work doesn’t necessarily need to be the solution for celebrations and inclusivity. Often, cultural holidays can be celebrated in the workplace community and can be used to bring awareness.

Examples of cultural holidays include: 

  • Black History Month – February
  • Women’s History Month – March
  • Autism Awareness Month – April
  • Pride Month – June
  • Juneteenth – June Nineteenth

Ways to Celebrate Include: 

  • Get involved outside the office. Invite the office to join in for the local Pride Parade. Send out a Facebook invite, details on where to meet, and consider grabbing a meal beforehand.
  • Get involved in the office. Host a panel discussion for Black History Month. Have an external speaker to come in and teach about LGBTQ+ history.
  • Highlight Support Groups Available. If there’s an office group that fundraises and hosts events related to that topic, give them the spotlight to ask for donations or plan an awareness event.

The Path Forward

Employees perform best when they feel seen and understood. We hope that celebrating the diversity of your employees is one small step towards creating a more inclusive work environment, and that this inclusivity propels your business forward.

Greater diversity and inclusion in the workplace fuels a wider range of ideas, expertise, and life experience, helping evolve any organization’s collective knowledge and overall mindset. But no company should consider themselves successful if their employees don’t feel celebrated and confident that they can succeed. Put your people first with these four ways to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.

Learn how to celebrate diversity and inclusion here

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