Holidays to Celebrate at Work: Why and How?
Sean Higgins
what company holidays to celebrate

A good human resource department is always trying to keep diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the heart of all that they do, but there are many times where it can become difficult or confusing to do so. 

Everyone has a background, beliefs, set of traditions, and culture, so each person has different occasions they want to (and don’t want to) celebrate.
This problem is best highlighted by November and December; employees could be looking to celebrate Diwali/Deepavali, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Thanksgiving, or even just the year ending. 

The question for HR is – which holidays should be celebrated in the workplace?

Why is it important for holidays to be celebrated at work?

Celebrations in the workplace are a chance for companies to show their employees that they are cared for. There are many opportunities throughout the year for celebrations, but the end of the year sees a large number of them back-to-back. 

While holidays are generally occasions for celebration, the end-of-year holiday season is actually quite stressful. an American Psychiatric Association poll found that 31% of Americans thought that they would be stressed in the 2022 holiday season, up 9% from 2021. 

While the holidays that people celebrate differ, the stressors that come around celebrating holidays don’t. Gift-giving, money, mental illness, mourning a loved one, all of these are factors that can make holidays a hard time. 

When holidays are celebrated at work, a lot of these stressors can be mitigated or even eliminated altogether – price caps on gifts, gifting guidelines, a clear idea of who will be bringing what dish to a potluck.

People who struggle with mental illness or are mourning the loss of a loved one can be distracted by a workplace celebration. All of this means that, when done right, workplace celebrations can be a truly special time for people. 

They can give employees a sense of community, streamline and simplify celebrations, and make sure that no one feels left behind. 

Why workplace holiday celebration inclusivity matters 

Inclusivity is all about making employees feel that they belong in their workplace. 

While many condemn labelling the Christmas season “holiday season”, it isn’t just inclusive, it’s accurate. Christmas is far from the only holiday that’s celebrated toward the end of the year, and it isn’t inherently more important than other holidays. The same can be said about holidays throughout the year. 

The workplace can be a difficult place to navigate differing politics, identities, and cultures. It can come to pass that certain employees feel they need to hide some essential aspect of themselves, such as religious or cultural beliefs. They start feeling unsafe at work, like they have to constantly have their guard up, and will feel alienated from their coworkers. 

This phenomenon can be exacerbated when holidays they celebrate are uncelebrated by others, or when others celebrate what they don’t. 

Exclusion can lead to poor motivation, job satisfaction, and ultimately performance. If even just a tiny number of employees feel excluded, it can have a negative effect on the entire organization’s engagement and productivity. 

How to create more inclusive holiday celebrations

1. Have a diverse planning committee

Having a planning committee made up of people from different religions, cultures, and backgrounds is an excellent way to plan celebrations in a sensitive, considerate, and inclusive way. 

2. Host a multicultural event/potluck

If there aren’t enough people to make a specific event’s celebrations substantial, then consider having a multicultural event where multiple different occasions are celebrated at the same time. If it’s a potluck, everyone can bring a dish from their culture or holiday.

This is a great way for employees to learn more about each other, bridge gaps, and find commonalities. 

3. Avoid specificities

In some cases, it could be a good idea to avoid making things like language and decoration colors specific, especially if a celebration is multicultural. For example, green and red are associated with Christmas, while white and blue are associated with Hanukkah. 

Try encouraging greetings like “happy holidays” and have only those that are comfortable use more specific language. 

4. Think about employees’ diets and lifestyles

Many religions have lifestyle and dietary restrictions, so it’s important that employees are mindful of each other when bringing food, suggesting games, or carrying out traditions. 

It’s always a good idea to have non-alcoholic and vegan options. There could also be multiple stages, for example a non-alcoholic stage followed by an alcoholic one, so that those uncomfortable with alcohol can leave before it makes an appearance. 

5. Keep event attendance optional

People may wish to be alone, avoid anything work-related, not like holiday celebrations, or not celebrate any holidays. Ensure that attendance is optional to avoid making what should be a joyous occasion a sour one. 

6. Consider timing 

Avoid scheduling celebrations on the actual day that they fall on so that employees can celebrate personally. 

7. Make sure employees who can’t be there are included too!

People on maternity leave, remote workers, or those who are otherwise unable to come to festivities but want to can be included in other ways, such as receiving gifts in the mail, having food delivered, receiving a cookbook made by all of the others who made dishes for the potluck, or even being sent an online card with messages from work friends and teammates. 

Give everyone the chance to celebrate

Hosting inclusive holiday celebrations is an amazing way to connect with and appreciate employees. They show that employees’ dedication, hard work, and continued effort doesn’t go unnoticed. It takes a little effort, but when done right, a company can enjoy happy holidays and even happier employees. 

The BetterYou app uses behavior science to improve digital health and make it stick.

Want to learn how?