Many people look forward to the winter holiday season, and for good reason. It often means time with family and friends, good food, and gifts. Workplaces around the world recognize the season, too, and come November each year, picture-perfect Christmas trees, Hanukkah menorahs, and Kwanzaa kinaras begin showing up in office-building lobbies everywhere.
But for businesses, navigating this time of year can be tricky. You don't want to offend any of your employees by assuming they all celebrate the same holiday or holidays, but you also don't want to leave anyone out. Then there are those who find the holidays difficult for personal reasons and may look to work as one of the few places they won't get constant reminders to be merry. So what's a business to do? Fear not. We gathered our top five strategies for businesses to ring in the holidays in ways that include and satisfy everyone in the office.
Rethink the holiday party
For many employees, December is the most stressful month of the year. One big reason is office holiday parties. In an online survey, 42 percent of respondents reported not wanting to go to their office holiday party, either because they wanted to keep their professional and private lives separate or because the date conflicted with another event or "something at home."
Let's face it -- even if there's no conflict on the night the boss has picked out for everyone to join him in cocktail attire at a steakhouse, there are probably 50 other things they would rather be doing with their Saturday evening. For many employees with young children, an evening out of the house means finding -- and paying -- a reliable, trusted sitter.
So why not nix the annual weekend fete completely in favor of a low-key potluck lunch during the week? This way workers get to keep their weekends and family time, employers save cash, and no one has to stress about sitters, new dresses, or dry-cleaning bills for their nicest suits.
Say 'No gifts' and mean it
Whether it's White Elephant or Secret Santa, the verdict has been in for a while, folks. People aren't wild about office gift exchanges. In fact, in a recent poll, these gag office activities topped the list of things respondents disliked about the holidays at their workplaces. No wonder; agonizing over the right gift (even if, or perhaps because, it has a dollar limit) can take hours. After all, you want to play by the rules but you don't want to look cheap; you want to give something you'd want, but you don't want anyone to find your tastes boring, ugly, or worst of all, somehow offensive.
Make your workers happy and do away with this tradition if you've had it in the past. If you haven't, don't start. Instead, consider giving a small, company-wide gift to each person. This doesn't have to be expensive or fancy; in fact, it's better if it isn't either. A $10 Starbucks or Amazon gift card would be happily received by people of many interests, faiths, and lifestyles.
Show your thanks
Your words are worth more than you may think. A study by Intel of its workers in a semiconductor factory in Israel found that employees were more motivated by verbal compliments from their boss than they were by money. “Giving people a sense of progress and showing them gratitude is not too difficult to do,” Duke University Professor Dan Ariely, author of "Payoff: The Hidden Logic That Shapes Our Motivation," said. “It’s amazing we don’t do more of it.”
Indeed, 'tis the season ... to be grateful. So show your employees some love and recognize their collective efforts on behalf of your organization. If feasible, individually recognizing each worker with a simple handshake and a "Thank you for all you do" would go a long way toward making each member of your team feel valued. You could go a step further and organize an opt-in activity as a thank-you gift. Bringing in a corporate chair-massage service for 10-minute mini-massages in the break room or ordering in a buffet-style lunch are just a few examples.
Focus on the customer
While we're on the topic of that for which we're grateful, let's not forget what makes businesses tick: customers. Defuse any potential tension about holiday-themed events and the like by flipping the focus. Show your and your employees' appreciation by sending a single, management-agreed-upon gift to each client with a simple, honest note on behalf of your entire company. Need ideas that don't break the bank? Try one of these.
Less is more
When it comes to holiday decorating, it can be easy to want to give Rockefeller Center a run for its money and go big (witness the 12-foot Evergreen displays up in many K Street building lobbies this time of year), but bigger is not always better. In fact, it can be a bit fatiguing to be bombarded with glitter and fake snow for the better part of two months. Consider scaling back, if you have the choice.
Having a single, small nod to each of the major wintertime holidays at your reception area, for example, may be all you need. Or you might want to consider going holiday-agnostic and curating one winter-themed display. People who come into your office will still know what month it is without the giant snowman, trust us.
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