The month of December can be both a festive and frantic time for employers. Business leaders are likely feeling the pressure of year-end responsibilities, while employees may feel the burden of meeting deadlines for professional obligations. Included in the mix is the holiday season. During this time, it is a great opportunity to practice inclusiveness in the workplace, ensuring that all employees have a positive experience this season. Let’s take-a-look at five tips for keeping your place of work inclusive for all.
1. Inclusive Messaging
After a long year, employers often want to thank employees and vendors for their efforts and accomplishments. When sending out these types of communication, does your leadership team only recognize one single holiday such as Christmas? If so, according to Julie Develin, SHRM-SCP, “There is a risk of making groups of employees feel excluded.”
What’s the best solution? Instead of using exclusive phrases, try a more inclusive approach by saying, “season’s greetings” or “we wish you a happy holiday season.”
2. Office Décor
Is it okay to decorate the office for the winter season, and can employees decorate their personal office or cubical? The answer is yes, but best judgement should be used when doing so. For example, snowflakes, garland, and snowmen are considered acceptable because they are not affiliated with any specific holiday. According to SHRM’s contributing journalist Susan Milligan, “Personal decorations are fine as long as the decorations are kept to a minimum and are not in any way treading on the rights of others….” In other words, it’s probably best to leave the lazer-light spectacular at home this year.
3. Days Off
A great inclusive initiative is for employers to encourage time off for other religious holidays. Generally, employers offer paid days off for set holidays, but implementing a floating holiday would allow employees to celebrate a holiday that’s most important to them as an individual. Not convinced? Consider this statistic: within the top 50 most diverse companies in the US, 78% reported having floating religious holidays. Now that’s something worth celebrating!
4. Gift Exchange Games
One holiday festivity that’s ever popular is the annual office gift exchange. Games such as “white elephant,” while meant to be fun can also be exclusive. For some, the holiday season can be a financially stressful time of the year, for others it may be that their religious or non-religious beliefs do not align with the concept of gift exchanges. This does not mean that games should be prohibited, but it is best to communicate that such activities are optional and that participation is not mandatory.
5. Seasonal Blues
The holiday season can be a joyous time, however for some this time of the year can be extremely difficult. It’s important to be mindful that some employees may be experiencing their first holiday without a loved one or friend. While it is fun to be festive and merry at work, it is imperative to be sensitive to one’s colleagues. If an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) is offered to employees, this is an excellent resource and benefit to remind employees about.
Overall, the main priority during the holiday season is to ensure that employees feel included, respected, and comfortable within the workplace. It is key for employers to understand that some people will celebrate something completely different than other people, and some may not celebrate anything at all. Our goal and responsibility as employers should be to cultivate a culture that supports diversity and inclusion among team members.