Navigating holiday celebrations is an important part of valuing diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) in the workplace. The winter season especially encompasses many popular cultural and religious holidays, which can introduce a range of challenges to employers, human resources (HR), and other leaders in the workplace.
It’s important to juggle the logistics of holiday time off while also incorporating appropriate, inclusive holiday celebrations into the company schedule. By approaching holidays thoughtfully and strategically, you can show that your company values all employees.
8 Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations
Establishing policies for holiday celebrations can be a complex process. However, a bit of planning and thought can help you design holiday policies that uplift your employees and boost morale. Keep these best practices in mind.
Survey Your Employees
Understand the importance of different holiday celebrations to your employees by asking for their feedback. You’ll be able to learn which holidays your workforce celebrates, allowing you to adapt company schedules and plans to your company’s unique situation.
Send out a company-wide anonymous survey to collect feedback about how your employees want to approach the holidays. Offer an open-ended feedback section for additional comments that could add context to your team’s view on holidays.
Use these responses to set policies for the entire company. For example, you might discover that employees would prefer a large company party in January instead of December. Or employees might indicate a preference for multiple floating holidays instead of a set holiday schedule.
For a large company, division leaders should also survey their own team members. Include questions about what types of activities your team may want to participate in, and which celebrations matter most to them. Some teams may emphasize having in-office celebrations for winter holidays, while others may simply prefer subtle acknowledgments through flexible time off.
Acknowledge Holidays from Multiple Cultures
If you plan on acknowledging holidays or hosting celebrations in the workplace, strive to avoid bias by equally supporting a variety of holidays. This could include decorating for multiple holidays or keeping a more general approach.
For example, you may decide to host a large annual party without a theme or several small parties for holidays like Valentine’s Day and Halloween. Another option is a winter celebration that acknowledges the multiple important winter holidays.
Inclusive holiday celebrations allow your employees to get into the festive spirit without your company prioritizing one religion or culture.
Consult Diverse Perspectives
Get feedback from a diverse range of individuals within your company. If your organization has a DEIB committee, seek their feedback when planning holiday events or celebrations. You may have your party-planning team partner with DEIB leaders to ensure they host positive, inclusive activities that support a culture of acceptance on the team.
Another option is working with your employee resource groups (ERG) to plan events. ERGs might want to host events to introduce their colleagues to different cultures and holidays.
Make Celebrations Optional
Some people may not participate in holiday celebrations for personal or religious reasons. Respect each employee’s perspective on holidays by making all holiday events and celebrations optional. Avoid connecting any work performance metrics to participation in social activities.
Leverage Shared Calendars
It’s important to respect people’s time off, whether that’s paid time off (PTO), a weekend, or other time outside business hours. Shared calendars can help with this.
Business owners and other leaders should use the feedback from the anonymous survey to put holidays and other important dates on a company-wide calendar. Instruct leaders not to schedule critical meetings on those days.
In addition, team leaders should put together shared calendars for their teams. These shared calendars contribute towards inclusive celebrations in two ways. First, put birthdays and work anniversaries on the calendar so you can celebrate your team members throughout the year. Second, ask all team members to put their PTO on the calendar. That way, you can plan around your team’s schedule.
Offer Floating Holidays Off
Floating holiday policies allow employees to pick out which days they want to take off, instead of requiring everyone to have the same time away from the office. While many companies choose to follow the same federal holiday schedule, floating holidays offer more flexibility. For example, a company may offer four floating holidays for all employees instead of simply closing the office on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Or they might offer a certain number of floating holidays off on top of pre-existing paid holidays. This allows each employee to take time off on the holidays that matter most to them.
Establish Clear Policies
Be sure to document your company’s stance on holiday celebrations, from office parties to PTO. Having clear policies in your company handbook can make it easier to enforce guidelines and to ensure that all employees are treated equally.
Create an official process for requesting time off or scheduling team meetings during holidays. If some employees need to work on popular days like New Year’s Day or Labor Day, create an equitable system so everyone gets a chance to take some holidays off throughout the year.
You may also want to add additional guidelines for celebrations, such as policies on gift-giving or alcohol consumption at company parties.
Clear policies provide everyone with the information they need to be respectful to people of all cultures during the holiday season.
Regularly Gather Feedback
Be open to adjusting your holiday policies as your team grows and evolves. Collect feedback from your team after events to learn about how you can improve and proactively address issues or concerns. Instead of sending out one-time surveys to establish your holiday policies, send out regular pulse surveys to identify any changing attitudes. You can use this information to ensure that company policies are in line with the genuine needs and perspectives of your team members. When you incorporate employee feedback into policies, you show that the company values its employees as individuals and respects their life outside of work.
Strengthen Company Culture Through Inclusive Holiday Celebrations
Applying these inclusive holiday celebration tips can help you manage the annual calendar with confidence. You’ll support your employees by validating their cultural and religious practices while also promoting a cohesive, accepting, and diverse environment. When you thoughtfully approach the holidays as a team, you can build a supportive company culture that persists year-round.