Celebrating Holidays in the Workplace
Often the topic of holiday celebrations in the workplace only comes up during the winter season, but religious celebrations are actually a year-long concern given that religious holidays occur every month. Many offices manage the issue of celebrating holidays in the workplace by coming up with an office policy for all celebrations, not just those related to religious holidays.
Celebrating seasonally, rather than celebrating religious holidays, is another way that some workplaces work to be inclusive while other workplaces choose instead to celebrate all holidays equally. Whichever option a workplace chooses, taking on board employees' recommendations and listening to their concerns will help everyone feel more comfortable at workplace celebrations, regardless of the reason for them.
Office Policies on Celebrating Holidays In the WorkplaceMany offices choose to write a policy to govern workplace celebrations so that everyone involved understands the "rules" as well as goals for such celebrations. Policies may specifically address religious celebrations, or they may simply govern any social activity that takes place at the office or includes employees. Detailed policies could include information on the types of decorations and foods served, if or what type of alcohol may be served, and aspects of religious celebrations which may be included during holidays. Particularly regarding religious holiday celebrations, policies may spell out that employees who choose not to be involved will not be penalised for their lack of participation. Policies should be available for all employee's to reference, such as on a company intranet, in a company handbook or advertised along with details of a celebration. Offices which must construct their own policies should also consider asking for employees to be involved in the process and to share their opinions and ideas.
Celebrating Seasonally Rather Than Celebrating HolidaysSome offices choose to avoid religiously affiliated celebrations, such as a Christmas party, by instead choosing to celebrate seasonally, such as with a Winter Ball instead. This method takes away the issue of equality for all religious holidays by avoiding them all together, but also takes away the opportunity to celebrate diversity. Offices which choose to celebrate seasonally should remember too that factors such as food, music and decorations should then strive to avoid religious connotations as well, for example by displaying snowflakes instead of Christmas trees and avoiding playing Christmas carols or serving a traditional Christmas dinner. Simply calling a celebration something seasonal is not enough - if employees begin to feel that they are at a religious celebration by another name then they may rightly complain about the situation.
Celebrating All Holidays In the WorkplaceRather than avoiding religious holidays all together, some workplaces choose instead to celebrate a vast spectrum of religious holidays. Using the "if you celebrate one then you celebrate them all" rule, these workplaces might then celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan, Diwali and Bodhi Day throughout the autumn and winter. However, to make sure that all religions enjoy equality the celebrations must then include parity of settings, decorations, music, food and drink (if any), advertising, etc. Attendance at each event might also become an issue if some celebrations are much better attended than others. Combining all holidays into one massive celebration acknowledging them all may be an option for workplaces unable or willing to host different celebrations for each holiday.
Celebrating religious holidays in the workplace can be tricky. Creating an office policy on holiday celebrations can help to provide rules and goals for such celebrations. Some workplaces choose to celebrate seasonally rather than celebrate religious holidays to avoid religious connotations, while others choose to celebrate all religious holidays. Workplaces deciding which ways to celebrate religious holidays should solicit opinions and questions from employees to make sure that as many voices as possible are heard on the topic.