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November 7, 2022
January 20, 2021

Celebrating the Holidays at Work

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Celebrating the Holidays at Work

Many of us spend the vast majority of our time at work contributing to projects, furthering initiatives, measuring success, and driving forward the success of the company. However, no matter where you work or what industry you’re in, it’s important to take time to step back and breathe. That’s one reason why we celebrate holidays at work—they give us a reason to remember what’s most important and why we’re working so hard. 

As an HR leader, however, it can be a challenge to know how to celebrate and reward your employees during the holidays. Do you just do one big holiday party for everyone? Bring in food and play a few games? What if your organization is too large to gather everyone in one place? And how do you make your celebrations more inclusive for everyone? Let’s talk a little bit about how to celebrate the holidays at work, and how to celebrate employees for all their contributions.

6 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays at Work

There are many ways to celebrate the numerous holidays at work. Perhaps the most common way to celebrate with employees is to hold one large holiday party at the end of the year. This is a very basic, but also very great way to show your appreciation for your employees. What are some other ways to celebrate?

1. Secret Santa

Secret Santa gift exchanges are a wonderful way to drum up excitement in the workplace and help people feel engaged. Plus, it helps employees get to know each other in many different ways in an anonymous, relatively risk-free environment. Maybe you didn’t know it but Jane in accounting loves Pokemon. How would you have figured that out if not for Secret Santa? 

2. Decorating Contests

Traditionally in the typical office environment this particular celebratory happening is reserved for Halloween, but it doesn’t only have to be for spooky season. Gather your teams and decorate for the holidays with a Christmas tree, or perhaps hold a gingerbread decorating event. Teams can build something together and display it where they work as a show of pride and confectionary architectural prowess. 

3. Holiday Party

Yes, we’re going to mention this again—but not because it’s the old standby! We’re mentioning it precisely because it doesn’t HAVE to be the old standby. Holiday parties can be as simple as a provided lunch or as involved as a swanky Gala. You don’t have to blow out your budget to show your employees you care, just be genuine in HOW you show them. 

4. Christmas Bonus

Ah yes. The tried and true way to celebrate the holidays: a Christmas bonus! We’re not deriding this staple of holiday celebrations, in fact we’re *celebrating* (see what we did there?) it! Everyone loves being rewarded somehow during the holidays. Rewards convey value and appreciation when done right, and a Christmas bonus can be a great way to help you show your appreciation for all the work your employees have put in. 


5. Company Activity

Celebrating the holidays AT work is great, but it’s even better when you get out of the workplace and do something with your team. Find an event that everyone can enjoy and maybe even bring their family to. Providing a space where coworkers can gather to enjoy each other's company and forget about work is a fantastic way to build company culture. 

6. Service Activity

The holidays can be even more special as you provide an opportunity for your teams to give back. All too often the most imposing roadblock to community service is time and knowledge—both things you as an HR leader can provide as you set up an activity where your employees can give back. Find a cause important to your organization and do some good—you might be surprised at how it influences your organization for the better. 

5 Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations at Work

Not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving or Christmas. In fact, if your workforce is global with over 23,000 employees like our friends at Hertz, the majority of your employees probably DON’T celebrate these two holidays. So how do you prioritize diversity and inclusion during the holidays? How do you host holiday celebrations that satisfy your diverse employees and are inclusive of everyone's beliefs and cultures?

1. Offer Floating Holidays

The simplest solution you can implement is to give each employee a few days of PTO to be used as floating holidays. This allows employees to take off the days and holidays that mean the most to them, even if the company can't afford to give everyone every holiday off.

2. Gather Employee Feedback

The best way to know how to include more diversity and equity in your holiday celebrations is to ask what your employees want. Send out anonymous surveys and ask questions such as:

  • Which holidays would you like to celebrate in the office?
  • Which holidays would you like to have off?
  • What cultural events or celebrations are meaningful to you?
  • Is there anything else we should know about your holiday, cultural, or religious beliefs and celebrations?

Once you have feedback, you'll know which holidays are important to your workforce. Then you can put these holidays on your company calendar, include diverse holidays in your PTO schedule, and ensure everyone has something to celebrate at work.

3. Be Careful With Decorations and Food

Decorations are a great way to get people in the festive spirit. But you should make sure the decorations speak to everyone. Red and green are great for Christmas, but blue and white are traditional colors for Hanukkah. And while a star on top of a Christmas tree is normal for Christian employees, that religious symbol may not sit right with employees of other faiths. Use secular decorations and avoid religious symbols where you can.

As for food, a Christmas ham and a bottle of champagne are pretty standard for holiday parties, right? But did you know that some groups don't eat ham or drink alcohol? If your party only has one option for food or drink, some employees may be uncomfortable or even offended. Instead, find food and drink that people of any culture or background can happily enjoy.

4. Encourage Awareness

Many employees may not even be aware that their coworkers celebrate different holidays than them. Promote diversity and inclusion by increasing awareness! Create an interfaith calendar and share it with your company; create intercultural panels or other educational opportunities where employees can go to learn more about different celebrations, foods, and traditions; or hold a potluck where employees can bring foods or snacks that are meaningful in their cultural celebrations.

You can also encourage managers and leaders to read up on different holiday traditions, especially if they have any direct reports who celebrate a different holiday than the majority of the workforce.

5. Schedule Any Event With Care

If you want to plan a holiday party and you automatically try and plan it sometime in December, you run the risk of interfering with employee plans. Hanukkah is typically in early December, Yule is sometime in December, Bodhi Day is on December 8th, Diwali is in late October or early November, Boxing Day is on December 26th, and Kwanzaa is December 26th through January 1st.

Do your research and find a day that doesn't create any conflicts for other religious or cultural holidays. Or, better yet, host a party for all of these parties and celebrate the diversity in your workplace!

Celebrate Diversity While Celebrating Holidays

Workplace holidays are an awesome opportunity to build culture and have fun at work. Educate yourself on the other holidays you can celebrate, and try not to assume that everyone celebrates the holidays you do. No matter the size of your company, you never know what kind of cultural background or traditions your employees hold dear. Strive to make every person feel welcome and celebrated during the holidays. Doing so will help your employees feel included and build an even better company culture. 

Rewarding Employees During the Holidays

We’ve talked about celebrating employees, and we can’t do that without mentioning rewarding employees for their good work during the holidays, too. Do you HAVE to reward employees during the holidays? Well, no. You don’t. But you don’t have to wear sunscreen either, so it’s really a game of diminishing returns. Rewarding employees is a great way, as mentioned above, to convey value. So how can you best reward them?

What Is the Best Way to Reward Employees?

The best way to reward employees is to give them the chance to choose what they’d like for their reward. Even if it’s just a small selection, providing choice is a fantastic way to show your employees you care, and when employees feel cared for, they’ll care more about their work. Nothing says “I sorta appreciate you for giving me most of your time” than a knockoff pair of headphones and a ceramic mug, right? 

Think about how you can really wow your employees—and if there isn’t budget to wow them as much as you’d like, think about something that might mean more than just the cost. Try something different than your usual. If you normally do a company lunch, consider giving everyone a gift card in the amount you would have spent on lunch. If you give everyone PTO, think about giving them one more day of it. It’s not going to hurt your organization to put a little more effort into your employees. 


Making the Holidays Successful at Work

A successful holiday season at work is one where employees feel appreciated and seen, no matter what you do for a celebration. Take a moment to think about what they might truly value and see what you can do to fill that gap. Your employees will thank you for it, you’ll engender more employee loyalty, and your organization will see incredible benefits as a result. 

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