Diversity and Office Holidays

Thanksgiving is almost here, which means it’s actually time to start thinking about your office and the winter holidays. Just like everything else, the holidays are going to be a little different this year. This year, with so many offices still working remote, trying to bring people together around the holidays is especially challenging and sensitive.

 Normally, the holidays are “the most wonderful time of the year.” Even in an office setting, people tend to be on their best, happiest, and most fun behavior. But, there can be challenges. Not everyone celebrates the same holidays, or celebrates holidays in the same way. Sometimes, this can lead to feelings of exclusion and frustration. In a worst-case scenario, it can lead to lawsuits about religious discrimination.

Before you worry, no, you don’t have to ban Christmas or discourage holiday celebrations. You also don’t need to become an expert in the 14 (!) other religious holidays celebrated in the beginning of winter. What you need to be is considerate of all of your employees.

Holiday Office Decorations

If your office is remote, this is one problem you don’t have to worry about. But, if you are working in person, you may want to add some extra holiday oomph this year. Garlands, snowflakes, and even lights are all fairly neutral and easy ways to make your office feel festive. But, Santa and Christmas trees are symbols of the Christian holiday and should probably be avoided. Some people think the answer is to put a Menorah or other Chanukah decoration next to a Christmas tree. Even this can be problematic as Chanukah and Christmas don’t have the same meaning to the two religions. Remember, no one is telling you or your employees how to celebrate at home, or what to believe, but work is work and it’s better to keep things neutral at work.

Holiday Office Parties

If you have a party, make sure it truly is a “holiday party,” not a Christmas party. Do not include Christmas activities. Holiday parties also need to be voluntary. People react very differently to the holidays and “forced fun,” is rarely fun. In general, it’s a good idea to keep alcohol consumption to a minimum at a holiday party. Too much alcohol can create other problems.

Time Off

With reduced travel this year, you may have fewer conflicts about who works which days. But, the inability to gather with family may leave some people extra sensitive. Christmas is a Federal holiday, so in most offices people will have the day off. People who practice other religions can become frustrated if they have to take vacation time for their holidays when Christians get days like Christmas off automatically. It’s worth looking into offering a flexible holiday that people can use as they see fit.

It’s always a good idea to be considerate and respectful of your employees. Taking extra care to be respectful and grateful for your employees during the holidays can yield benefits year-round.

Wishing you and your office a happy holiday season!

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