5 Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace

Oct 12

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The workforce is more diverse than ever, which enriches our work lives and makes businesses more inclusive, but getting the holiday season right can be a challenge. With over a dozen multicultural holidays in December, the task of making sure every faith is included in holiday celebrations can feel insurmountable.

It may be a challenge, but it isn’t impossible! Here are five best practices for inclusive holiday celebrations in the workplace that will make sure you celebrate and honor each of your employees during this festive time of year, regardless of their religious affiliation.

1. Know Your Workforce

Inclusive holidays are important to every organization because they make your employees feel like they belong, but no matter how well-placed your intentions, you will never get holiday celebrations right unless you know your workforce.

You already know things like your employees’ strengths and their educational background, but you should also take the time to get to know others, more personal, things about them. Ask about their family to build camaraderie, talk about their hobbies outside of work to support their personal development, and pay attention to their religious affiliations so you can accommodate them all year long. 

A group of employees on a meeting

Religious affiliation can be a touchy subject, especially for those who have experienced discrimination based on their faith in the past. Never ask about religion during the hiring process, but once hired, you can consider sending out a survey to employees asking about their religious affiliation. Just make sure you include the option for them to leave the answer blank. Letting employees know that the goal of the survey is to ensure holiday celebrations are inclusive can help ease their worry and encourage them to provide you with honest answers.

Whether you decide to survey employees or not, a little observation can go a long way.

  • Do your employees talk about Sunday service, shopping for Christmas presents early, or making Latkes for Hanukkah?
  • Do you have employees who already receive religious accommodations?
  • Do you have employees who wear clothing or jewelry that reflects their faith?

Based on this information, and armed with an interfaith calendar, you can incorporate details in all holiday celebrations to ensure every employee feels included.

2. Create a Diverse Planning Committee

Knowing your employees and their religious affiliations is the first step to making sure you communicate an inclusive holiday message throughout the season. This also helps to ensure you create a diverse planning committee.

Knowing the details of every religion is impossible to do on your own. By reaching out and asking employees from a wide range of religious affiliations to participate in a holiday planning committee, you can ensure every holiday is represented accurately throughout December and beyond.

Having a diverse planning committee is also a great way to make your employees a little happier. Not only will the people participating in the committee feel good that you asked for their input, other employees will be glad you took the time to make sure their specific holiday was included in company celebrations.

3. Offer Floating Holidays

Planning holiday celebrations in the office is one thing. Making sure employees are able to celebrate with their families is another. The trouble is, giving everyone the time off they need can be a logistical headache! Make things easier for HR, and make sure every employee is able to celebrate according to their faith, by offering floating holidays.

Floating holidays are separate from sick time and vacation time. They can be taken by employees whenever they want, enabling them to use them during the month of December to celebrate a holiday that they may not have off as part of the regular working calendar.

This is a fair and equitable way to support diversity and inclusion during the holidays because everyone gets an extra day or two to use however they please. One employee may use it to celebrate the Buddhist holiday Rohatsu, while another employee may decide to use it on Good Friday in the spring.

4. Be Mindful of Decorations

Diversity at Christmas can be hard to come by. It’s normal to see Christmas trees decorated in town squares and red and green dominating color schemes in retail windows. However, if you want to embrace diversity, you need to take a different approach when it comes to decorations.

Martini glass filled with decoration candies and sprinkles

That doesn’t mean you have to avoid Christmas decorations altogether! Christmas and diversity can go hand-in-hand when you incorporate other décor as well.

For example, you can put a spin on traditional evergreen boughs by decorating them with blue ribbon for Hanukkah, or decorate wreaths in the red, green, gold, and black of Kwanzaa.

You also have the option of avoiding traditional holiday decorations altogether. Instead, focus on nature. Decorate with pine cones, snowflakes, and bare branches, using frosty blue, white, and silver as your color scheme.

5. Don’t Require Participation

For many, focusing on diversity and inclusion during the holidays means finding ways to make in-office and out-of-the-office celebrations warm and welcoming for everyone, but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to participate.

It’s important to recognize that holidays in the workplace can be extremely stressful for introverted employees, atheists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others. Everyone should always be welcome and invited, but no one should be required to attend—no explanation necessary.

Ensure that your employees know that it’s absolutely okay if they do not want to attend. Many employees force themselves to participate because they worry how it will look to coworkers, or being overlooked for the next promotion by management. It should always be clear that participation in any celebration is completely separate from work and only something employees should do if they want to.

A group of employees clinking glasses with champagne

Creating an inclusive holiday celebration isn’t easy, but it’s well-worth the effort. When you take the time to implement these five best practices for inclusive holiday celebrations in the workplace, you can ensure that every holiday celebration will bring all your employees closer together instead of dividing and pulling them apart.

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