How to Celebrate Holidays Inclusively at Work
Here’s a question to ask at your next all-hands or town hall meeting: What makes us all unique? 🎤
We each have a story of where we’re from, traditions we celebrate, and culture that has shaped our points of view. Since each person will celebrate holidays in your workplace differently, recognizing and supporting an inclusive environment shows your team cares about everyone! (Said differently, "holiday" is not synonymous with "Christmas.")
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) during the holidays can be tricky. You don’t want to show favoritism towards particular groups, individuals, events, or personal values. Cue the “December dilemma,” which is often used to describe the challenges HR leaders and managers face to acknowledge the numerous important events celebrated this time of year.
The holiday season is already known to increase stress for employees. Take on the challenge to make this season a joyful time for everyone, embracing the variety that comes with each holiday that's celebrated 🙌.
Practical tips for a more inclusive holiday season
Create space for people to be themselves
Teammates must feel safe to express themselves at work. Giving employees the freedom to show others what matters most to them, and having this gesture reciprocated, helps your team celebrate differences and embrace new traditions.
Start with this question: How would you rate your psychological safety at your workplace? Unfortunately, not all employees believe they can be their true selves at work or even speak up for their beliefs and opinions. A Gallup survey revealed only 3 out of 10 employees strongly agreed that their opinions count at work.
Identifying ways for each person to feel safe and accepted creates room for individuality. Are you giving team members opportunities to share their life experiences, culture, and religious traditions freely with their coworkers? Allow the time for peer education to better understand where each team member is coming from.
Find out which events and values matter to employees
One of the easiest and fastest ways to learn the scope of holiday celebrations for your team is by—drum roll—asking them! 😀 Send out an inclusion and holiday diversity survey to capture further details, leaving room for comments at the end for anything you might have missed.
Keep in mind that not all employees will be celebrating religious holidays, too. According to the Pew Research Center, three in 10 U.S. adults report no religious identity or faith tradition, including atheists and agnostics. Avoid siloes when it comes to planning and hosting special celebrations during the holidays—go straight to the source and learn more about each team member.
Try to keep certain words, decorations, food and drink options, and other party details more inclusive when you are announcing or scheduling a group activity. This way no one feels pressure to do something uncomfortable or disregard their own set of values.
Create an inclusive holiday calendar to build awareness
Planning ahead and having a reference point for major holidays and festivities will guide your team throughout the year. Many organizations look to interfaith calendars for remembering important dates. Here are a few major holidays to keep in mind:
📆 Common Religious Celebrations During the Holiday Season
- November 1, Christian: All Saints Day (Day of the Dead or Día de los Muertos)
- November 12, Hindu: Diwali
- December 7-15, Jewish: Hanukkah
- December 8, Buddhist: Bodhi Day
- December 21-January 1, Pagan and Wiccan: Yule
- December 25, Christian: Christmas
Often, companies will offer floating holiday options as well. This gives each employee the opportunity to celebrate a particularly special time at their discretion. Make sure that managers and coworkers are being respectful during these times and not disrupting the individual’s time away from work—no emails, Slack messages, or reminders while they’re out. ⛔
Let everyone opt-in or opt-out
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 balanced work culture.
Employee gifts and exchanges are common during the holiday season. Respect each coworker by leaving these activities optional and providing consistent communication and expectations to the group.
In some cases, not everyone will be able to celebrate in person, and that’s okay! Remote celebration options are important for those who want to feel included. Keep social times voluntary and understand that remote workers may just need a break from their screens.
Learn how to keep improving
Your team is not going to succeed 100% of the time in keeping holidays in the workplace a perfect version of inclusivity and diversity. Learn from any mistakes and find ways to improve by collecting feedback from your team.
Whether you receive an outpouring of praise and encouragement or some constructive criticism, be sure to address it appropriately. Huddle with leadership on big issues or address specific situations with individuals directly. Once your coworkers feel heard, make a plan. Take what you’ve learned and apply it to your next holiday inclusivity and diversity planning session.
There you have it! Easy, right? 😅 We understand that creating an inclusive company culture doesn't happen overnight, and it might even be a career-long practice. Yet, kudos to you for putting in the work, asking questions, and making holiday inclusion a pivotal piece to your HR puzzle.
We hope you have a great holiday season and make your team feel special by celebrating everyone’s unique story, values, and traditions. 💚