How employers choose to recognize and celebrate holidays at work impacts culture and employee experience, which in turn affects the success of the organization. By recognizing worker backgrounds, we create a workplace culture of inclusion and belonging that attracts, retains and grows talent. On the other hand, ignoring the identities of workers can lead to increased turnover and absenteeism and employees can feel belittled and unseen when certain faith-based or cultural belief celebrations receive more attention than others.
The first federal holidays were created in 1870 when Congress granted paid time off to federal workers in the District of Columbia for New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. 12 federal holidays have been approved by Congress, with the most recent being Juneteenth National Independence Day, which President Joe Biden signed into law in 2021. Today, federal holidays in the U.S. have no religious affiliation or they are rooted in Christian beliefs.
Following the American Revolution, many state constitutions declared the free exercise of religion, yet many of these states still had laws barring Jews from voting or holding public office. Many restricted officeholding to protestants.
James Madison insisted on the separation of church and state since the new United States offered, in his words, “asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every nation and religion.”
Before WWII, paid vacation and holiday time were generally a benefit for white-collar workers. Today, around 3 in 4 workers get paid holidays.
How to create inclusive holiday practices:
· Add time off for federally excluded holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Ramadan and Eid
· Add global holidays to your digital company calendar and regularly recognize
· Add floating holidays and be thoughtful on number of days and how to make them relaxing
· Increase educational opportunities on DEI and your holiday policy
· Launch regular DEI workshops - Colorful Connections can help!
· Schedule monthly guest speakers
· Add global holidays to your digital company calendar
· Conduct an anonymous climate survey to set a baseline and determine which holidays employees celebrate
· Colorful Connections can help with creating and analyzing a custom survey that not only captures what’s important around celebrations but other data like demographics, feelings of inclusivity equity and more
· Be mindful of those who do not drink during celebrations and make sure to include non-alcoholic options
· Make holiday celebrations optional and communicate with employees that they are under no obligation to attend
Lastly, keep in mind, everyone is not excited and all holidays are not happy celebrations. Holidays can spark grief and loneliness for some people.
We hope this inspires you to look deeper into your holiday practices at work.