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How to Celebrate Holidays Inclusively at Work

Here’s how to show appreciation and consideration for your diverse workforce with inclusive holiday celebrations this year and always.

By Kate Dagher  •   November 8, 2022  •   8 min read

As we approach the coming winter, many people are excited to celebrate the holidays and feed into more of a festive vibe at the office. While we fully support this, we should also recognize that there are over a dozen multicultural holidays in the month of December. It’s essential to ensure that every faith is celebrated in your workplace to create feelings of safety, trust, and belonging across the whole team. 

Figuring out how to celebrate holidays inclusively at work can seem tough. Discussing religious affiliations is often uncomfortable, which is why it’s so important to educate yourself as a leader and take the time to understand which holidays are celebrated by your team members. With a more diverse workforce than ever, which brings about more enriching workplace experiences and unique approaches to business practices, it’s essential to ensure everyone feels seen and heard, especially around the holidays. 

Benefits of celebrating holidays inclusively 

There are several benefits associated with learning how to celebrate holidays inclusively at work. First, and perhaps most importantly, this creates a culture of belonging. When you create a culture of belonging, it benefits the organization since you gain several different ways of approaching projects, challenges, and opportunities. In episode 102 of Fellow’s Supermanagers podcast, Erin Thomas, VP, Head of Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging at Upwork, shares: 

“I think about our vision, the vision for my function is dignity, fairness, purpose and community at the center of every working moment, and again, it kind of goes back to what we talked about earlier, when you leave things to chance, those sentiments, those experiences don’t always get characterized in those ways… Even anticipating, collaborating with folks who seem different from you, actually changes how we orient ourselves around problems.”

In turn, this culture of belonging enhances employee experience by making them feel more comfortable at work and by exposing individuals to different points of view, opinions, experiences, and backgrounds. When employees have good experiences and feel like they belong at work, they’re much more likely to remain working at a given company long term. As such, your organization will showcase good talent retention, which is hugely beneficial to attaining your business goals. Lastly, when employees feel safe—that is, they feel as if they belong, they feel appreciated, and they don’t feel judged—they’ll bring their most authentic selves to the office. This authenticity is what makes up varying viewpoints and approaches that allow your company to be successful and your employees to feel satisfied. 

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5 steps to celebrating holidays inclusively 

1Create psychological safety 

If you’re thinking about how to celebrate holidays inclusively at work, consider finding ways to create psychological safety. In episode 43 of the Supermanagers podcast, Alice Ko, the Director of Marketing Communications at Procurify, shares: 

“Psychological safety means you have a culture where people feel comfortable speaking up, they feel comfortable being themselves, they don’t worry that if they suggest an idea, or maybe if they disagree with you that they will get that there will be backlash. And so they feel safe coming into the workplace.”

When employees feel safe, they can show up to their workplace as their true and authentic selves. This means that individuals will feel more comfortable sharing the details of their particular holiday celebrations with others, knowing that they are safe and accepted.  

2Ask for employee feedback 

A great tool to help you celebrate holidays inclusively is to ask for employee feedback. Feedback is important for collecting data from employees on almost every part of the business and for providing them with the best working experience possible. When seeking feedback, be sure to provide an optional space for employees to share their identities and preferences as well. You can give an option for the survey or feedback to be anonymous, and your HR team can then use this data to identify opportunities for cultural growth and diversity inclusion, especially around the holidays. With Fellow, you can share real-time feedback on meetings, projects, performance, and even preferences for holiday celebrations. 

3Share an inclusive holiday calendar 

Another way to celebrate holidays inclusively is to share an inclusive holiday calendar. A company-wide holiday calendar that can be edited by all employees to input specific dates that their holidays fall on will help to build awareness and inclusion on days that religious holidays take place. This will not only help the organization create internal traditions and community, but will also help establish a workforce that is more sensitive, informed, and welcoming to individuals from all kinds of different backgrounds. Using this calendar, you can create monthly communications about any upcoming holidays and encourage celebrations to take place. 

4Make company-wide events voluntary

Even once the organization has established a way to create celebrations that focus on inclusion and diversity, it doesn’t mean that everyone will want to participate. Make sure that any company-wide events you’re holding are completely voluntary, while still encouraging everyone to participate and come together to support one another. It’s important to recognize that celebrating holidays in the office can be extremely uncomfortable or even a source of stress and anxiety for some. Ensure that your employees know that it’s completely fine not to attend if an event makes them feel in any way uneasy. 

5Offer floating holidays 

Offering floating holidays is another great way that you can celebrate diversity and foster inclusion in the workplace. Give employees the chance to select which days they would like to recognize and celebrate holidays by giving them a day off work—doing so will help eliminate bias towards national or Christian-centered holidays like Christmas. Giving employees the chance and autonomy to specifically select when and how they celebrate particular holidays is empowering and shows respect for all. 

Best practices for celebrating holidays inclusively

1Have an equal emphasis on all holidays

Instead of focusing on just one major holiday in December, like Christmas, work towards creating an equal emphasis on all holidays. One way of creating a more diverse community and office culture is having a New Years party instead, or suggesting a potluck celebration once per quarter where people can bring dishes, decorations, or traditions from their faith to share with the rest of the team or company. More open-ended, inclusive parties will eliminate a lot of the awkwardness that many employees feel about not celebrating a particular holiday which may happen to be the most common (or commercialized). 

2Provide food and drink options 

Make sure that there are adequate food and drink options for everyone. This likely means circulating a survey or questionnaire that clearly identifies if employees have any food restrictions or allergies of which you should be aware. If a company doesn’t take care to ensure people can safely eat and drink at work, it tells employees that the organization doesn’t respect or really care about employees’ dietary restrictions, which translates to not caring about its employees’ needs. Be very careful to think about certain dietary restrictions. For example, many religious groups do not eat pork, and many people are now vegetarian or vegan. Ensure you’re placing different kinds of foods on different tables to ensure you’re respecting everyone’s needs. 

3Have an optional gift exchange 

You can consider doing some kind of optional gift exchange by circulating a survey to employees to see if it’s something they may enjoy. If you and your team decide to do a gift exchange, be sure to set some clear guidelines on what kinds of gifts are appropriate. While many people may grab a bottle of wine as an easy present, many people don’t drink and could be offended by this. It may be a good idea to establish guidelines for not giving alcohol as a gift, for example, so everyone feels comfortable. A company that allows alcohol at holiday parties or celebrations could risk their inclusivity efforts by excluding those who choose not to drink and potentially making people feel uncomfortable. 

4Educate others on holidays and religions

Importantly, educate your company about different holidays, traditions, and religions. You can start with your holiday calendar and ask employees to look over it and read into any traditions or holidays with which they’re not familiar. Your HR team could organize or host a diversity and inclusion training or workshop around the holidays to ensure that everyone is informed and prepared to be respectful towards their teammates. You can also ask your team members to identify ways they feel may be effective in educating others about holidays and religions at work. 

5Be mindful with decor

Lastly, be mindful of decor. If you truly want to embrace diversity, it’s important to move beyond simply having a Christmas tree. Make an effort to represent all holidays around this time of year, so people feel seen and thought of. Doing so will foster a greater sense of belonging, and employees will appreciate the effort that has been made to recognize their faith or their particular celebrations.

Parting advice

It can be difficult to think about how to celebrate holidays inclusively at work, but it’s an extremely important topic to discuss. As our workforces become increasingly diverse, it’s important to take the time to get to know your employees, recognize their needs, and celebrate their unique backgrounds, traditions, and faiths. This year, prioritize putting your employees first and getting to know their backgrounds more so they can be celebrated the way they deserve to be.

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