With the holiday season approaching, decorations and wishes of Merry Christmas will once again become part of our everyday lives. But it’s worth remembering that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. Canada is made up of over 200 distinct ethnicities, each with its own holiday traditions. So, how do we consider everyone in our office holiday planning? From throwing an inclusive end-of-year bash to decorating the office in style, here are some dos and don’ts to remember when you’re spreading office cheer this holiday season.
Everybody loves Christmas decorations, right? That all depends on your office culture and how your boss feels about mistletoe, cedar and Christmas trees in the workplace. And speaking of mistletoe, save that particular tradition for home where it is less likely to cause an embarrassing situation.
If your office decorates, try to keep everybody in mind. But remember it might be impractical to represent every single tradition in your decorations. Instead of using cultural and religious symbols, try a more neutral, winter theme so that everyone can feel included.
And, if your company allows it, have workers decorate their personal workspace as they see fit.
That’s an easy one: No. Christmas is only one of the many different holidays that take place in December. While that detail has fallen prey to criticisms of “political correctness,” it’s really just common courtesy in an inclusive workplace. Try calling it the End-of-Year Party instead. More people will be interested in attending. More people means more fun, and celebrating together is what you’re after.
How do you encourage shy co-workers to participate in the office cheer? Ask for input. It can be as simple as saying “We are planning the end-of-year party and want to encourage everyone to come—not just the party-goers. Do you have any thoughts about how we can do that?” By being open to input, you can learn a lot about the preferences of your co-workers and plan accordingly. People are usually more eager to participate when they had a hand in the preparation.
Try organizing a potluck where people can share their own favourite holiday treats with their co-workers. Remember to take everyone’s dietary restrictions into account, whether vegetarian, gluten-free, halal or kosher. Not everyone drinks either, so have a selection of non-alcoholic options available.
In the spirit of including everyone, try focusing a portion of your party on the good work that your organization has done over the past year. Recognizing the hard work of your co-workers and team can go a long way towards fostering a sense of belonging among your co-workers and building unity in your office.
In your efforts to be more inclusive, it can be very easy to be inadvertently intrusive with your encouragement for people to join in the holiday fun. Never make attendance at an office party mandatory or forcibly pull people out of their comfort zones. They may have other personal obligations to attend to, or might not be comfortable in social situations. Also be sure to check your calendar so that you’re not holding your party during fasting periods like Ramadan or on the Sabbath when co-workers may be unable to attend.
It can be dangerous to assume someone’s culture or religion based on their appearance. In a multicultural nation, appearances rarely give reliable information. If you’ve made your office holiday season festivities truly inclusive, none of this will matter. Everybody in your office, whether secular or religious, should be able to find a warm space to celebrate unity and look forward to the new year.
During the holidays, the stresses of everyday life can be amplified. Finances, family, high expectations and feelings of isolation and loneliness can cause mental health issues for some, and rates of depression increase over the holiday season. One in five people will face a mental illness in their lifetime, so don’t assume that your grumpy co-workers are channeling Scrooge. if someone at your holiday party looks out of sorts, ask them how they’re doing, and be prepared to listen. t8n