The holidays are a great time to sponsor events that bring the team together to unwind and bond. Regardless of your intentions, however, your holiday office party could alienate your employees instead of building goodwill if you’re not careful to make the event inclusive. Still, that’s no reason to skip the party entirely—social events can build bonds and show your team you appreciate them.
Many companies are more diverse than ever, leading to improvements in company culture, creativity, innovation, and employee satisfaction. However, there are often challenges when it comes to making everyone feel truly welcome and like they’re part of the team. The holidays can be especially fraught, as different cultures celebrate in a variety of different ways and maintain their traditions.
As society evolves, inclusivity is becoming increasingly important. When planning your holiday office party this year, it’s important to make an effort to embrace this diversity and create a celebration everyone can enjoy. Here’s how to make it happen.
Inclusivity Doesn’t Happen in a Silo
Planning the holiday party should involve different opinions and perspectives. If you only celebrate Christmas and you’re not familiar with other cultural holiday traditions, then you probably aren’t equipped to plan the entire party yourself. Bring others in to fill in the gaps and ensure inclusivity.
Remember, inclusivity isn’t possible in a silo. Your party-planning committee should be made up of employees from different backgrounds, ideally representing the diversity of your workforce so that different traditions can be represented and everyone feels included.
Making It Happen
So how can you ensure that this year’s party will be the best, most inclusive celebration yet? Consider these 6 tips to make it work.
1. Try Anonymous Surveys for Ideas
People who don’t celebrate the majority holiday in your office might say that it’s fine with them if their traditions aren’t represented. But given the chance to offer anonymous feedback, they may say something different.
Many employees will try not to “rock the boat” when it comes to topics like inclusive party-planning but they still might feel isolated and left out if they’re not represented in the celebrations. Be mindful of this and give people a chance to provide input without requiring them to do so publicly.
2. Incorporate Different Food Traditions
One of the best ways to create a more inclusive celebration is to take your employees’ food restrictions and traditions into consideration. Offering vegetarian, vegan, Kosher, and Halal options is easier than you might think and will make the gathering feel much more inclusive. It’s a party—having lots of food is in the spirit of the season!
You might also consider holding a potluck for side dishes or desserts so that everyone can enjoy their traditional holiday foods and share them with others. Get input on food from a wide range of people in your office, and just consider skipping food like ham which is problematic in many food traditions.
3. Think About The Dates
You probably aren’t planning to hold your party on Christmas or Christmas Eve, but you may not be aware of the other holidays in December that may conflict with your party plans. It’s not fair to make your employees decide between attending family celebrations and the work party—the family celebrations will always win out and some employees will likely feel left out.
Not sure which dates to avoid? Ask! It’s also easy enough to find a calendar of holidays that are held in December all over the world. A little research will help ensure that the date of your party allows as many people as possible to attend.
4. Rethink Your Décor
If you want to create an inclusive atmosphere at this year’s holiday party, leave Santa at the store. There are lots of ways to create a festive feel without using holiday-specific décor. General winter-themed decorations, candles, and plants can make the space feel celebratory without leaving anyone out (except Santa!).
5. To Drink or Not to Drink (It’s Their Choice)
Alcohol is a big part of holiday celebrations for many people. But non-drinkers, whether they abstain by choice or for religious or health reasons, are often left with few interesting options. This is an easy fix. If you’re providing alcoholic beverages, be sure to also provide fancy sodas, mocktails, and other options besides plain water. Everyone should feel like they have something fun in their glass.
6. Create a Diverse Playlist
You might not have thought about inclusivity when considering music for the office party, but it’s something you should consider. Christmas music, while it is easy to obtain and seems inoffensive enough, can exclude those who do not celebrate the holiday.
Try getting input from the team on the music they’d like to hear at the party. You can still throw in a few Christmas songs, as long as everyone else is being represented too. It’s just not very welcoming to have an entire playlist of Christmas tunes with nothing for everyone else. Try having employees submit songs into a suggestion box. You may just find some new favourites!
And let’s face it, by the time December rolls around, most of us have heard enough Christmas music to last another year! Put a little more effort into the playlist and let everyone have a break from Christmas music.
Promoting Year-Round Diversity
In the workplace, people vary in many ways. Diversity in the office is important for many reasons, and companies need to recognize and celebrate that diversity all year long. It’s all well and good to have an inclusive holiday office party, but that effort will fall flat if it’s not backed up by inclusivity every other day of the year.
It’s all about working together to ensure that everyone feels comfortable and welcome in the office. People should value each other’s cultures, traditions, and values both throughout the year and around the holidays. In the end, everyone in the office has a responsibility to value and respect one another to foster stronger team bonds and a more cohesive workplace.
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Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.