Holidays are an important part of many cultures across the world. Leadership support of when and how to celebrate holidays throughout the year are critical when building the culture of a company around of flexibility, inclusivity and authenticity. Best practices for a strong company culture includes encouraging employees to be themselves by supporting their values and differences through inclusive policies, a diverse leadership team showing equitable hiring practices, and staying curious and connected to different perspectives.
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 that they belong. Ways to do so include offering floating holidays, creating holiday calendars, and meeting employees where they are.
Offer Floating Holidays
Floating holidays are paid days off that an employee can use to choose when and how they recognize their specific cultural celebrations. In general, these days do not rollover year over year, and most organizations give two to four floating holidays to employees per year. 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.
Create a Holiday Calendar
Bring awareness to different religious and cultural days with a company-wide holiday calendar. This will not only create a more informed workplace environment but will also build internal traditions and community.
You may also consider incorporating monthly internal communications about upcoming holidays and bring in external speakers for additional points of education about underrepresented groups and cultures.
Meet People Where They Are
Not everyone wants to participate in holiday activities. Media makes the holidays feel warm and fuzzy, however the holidays can be really painful for some. Oftentimes people have suffered a loss of a parent or child, are disconnected from their family (physically or emotionally,) or are experiencing a financial hardship. For all these reasons, employees may find the holidays to be a stressful time that they prefer to not celebrate. Never force your team to participate or attend a gathering. Always invite your team and be respectful of anyone who declines or is uninterested.
Celebrating diversity and inclusion during the holidays requires a mindful and empathetic approach. Our own biases and beliefs can be hard to overlook during certain times of the year. Give everyone the ability to join in or opt-out of particular company-wide events to be supportive of a balanced work culture.
Be Mindful of Décor Choices
When hosting a work sponsored event, be prepared to do your research to ensure there is no offensive décor, that food options are broad, and that the event place and time are considerate. When choosing the décor for your company event, be mindful before grabbing that “Happy Thanksgiving” matching napkin and plate set. It’s easy to find American Flags flooding the aisles for Independence Day when companies often host barbeques, which may offend colleagues who celebrate Juneteenth. Likewise, before grabbing centerpieces of Santa’s sleigh, consider who would rather see a mixture of menorahs and kinaras alternating every other table. Décor can be mixed and inclusive or generic, based on a color and not specific to any holiday. For example, a summer barbeque with fruit décor or a December Holiday Party with black and gold décor.
Consider Dietary Restrictions
When creating your menu, ensure you have accounted for all dietary options. The rule of thumb is that chicken and red meat, nondairy, and vegetarian options are the basic requirements. For example, you can offer chicken breast and pulled pork, pasta with a vegetable, side salad, fruit, and dessert.
Accommodate for Differing Schedules
When your event is hosted is just as important as what is served and how the event is decorated. If for some reason the event is not hosted during work hours, choose a time that employees who are caregivers can find alternate options. Also consider choosing a location close to the home office, as you know this is a place that is a reasonable commute for all employees.
Holidays are key to balancing personal and professional life for most employees. As such, understanding how to encourage an inclusive environment around them is important. From offering floating holidays to hosting inclusive celebrations, there are a multitude of ways that employers can ensure they are doing all they can to show their support for their team.