Tips For an Inclusive Office Christmas
With any reasonably diverse group of employees, it’s safe to assume that there is going to be a wide range of perspectives and emotions when it comes to Christmas. Some of us love it, some of us dread it, and some are just indifferent! The important thing, as an employer, is not to make assumptions about how your people feel towards this season, and to prioritise inclusivity as you plan and prepare.
There are many different reasons why people might struggle at Christmas, or feel excluded from some of the festive celebrations. These can include:
- Differing religious beliefs
- Not wanting to buy into the commercialisation of Christmas
- Financial strain, with added pressure at this time of year
- Difficult emotions stirred up for personal/family reasons
- Social anxiety, or feeling uncomfortable in big crowds or at parties
- Unable to stay late after work or come out in the evenings because of childcare
- Already feeling depleted and struggling with mental health, and Christmas brings an expectation that you will be happy and fun all the time
- Problems with alcohol or other addictions, and Christmas makes this even harder to avoid
The best way to get a measure of how people are feeling as the festive season approaches is to gather feedback from your staff about what they would enjoy and what they would prefer to avoid. You can ask for ideas at team meetings, but also make sure that there is an opportunity for anonymous input so that people feel they can be completely honest about sensitive issues.
Here are some of our tips for an inclusive office Christmas:
Make space for religious festivals all year round
Integrate religious festivals into your organisational calendar throughout the year as a great opportunity for employees to share the things that are important to them and to learn about other faiths and cultures. This helps to create a working environment in which people feel safe in their beliefs and traditions, and free to be themselves.
Maintain boundaries and behavioural standards
Office Christmas parties and work “socials” are not the same as just hanging out with mates. Although there will likely be a relaxing of some workplace dynamics, expectations and hierarchies, some boundaries still need to be in place. Your organisational values still apply, and expectations of equality, inclusivity and respect should still be upheld – even (and especially) where alcohol is involved. It’s also crucial not to plan events that revolve around alcohol, and to make sure that non-alcoholic alternatives are always provided.
Make clear that it’s all optional
Your employees shouldn’t feel obligated to get involved with any of your Christmas events if they’re not interested, don’t feel comfortable, can’t afford it, or can’t make the date/time. Be explicit about the fact that any festive event or activity is optional, and make sure that your plans include some free and low key activities. It’s a good idea to schedule some of your festive fun to take place during normal working hours so that those who can’t stay late or come out in the evening can still be included. This might be decorating the tree, offering mince pies during coffee breaks, or inviting some local carol singers to come and perform over lunch.
Invite everyone – even those on leave
Don’t overlook your employees who are part-time, working remotely, on maternity/paternity leave, or temporarily on leave for any reason. It’s better to invite them and let them turn you down than for them to feel excluded because they’re not physically present in the office.
Find Secret Santa alternatives
Think about exchanging gifts of time, acts of service, or messages of encouragement rather than expecting people to spend money on each other.
Promote mental health resources
Make sure that your people know where to turn if they need additional support with their mental, emotional, or even financial health at this time of year. Direct them towards resources and/or invite a third party into the office to provide extra support.
Look for opportunities to give back to your local community, as an organisation, in order to support people and families in the local area who might find Christmas especially hard.
Ultimately, you can do your bit to make Christmas an inclusive and uplifting season for your employees if you major on things like celebrating personal and collective milestones, facilitating some social down-time together, and centering it all around values like community, encouragement, and gratitude.