Hacking the Holidaze

Hacking the Holidaze

This time of year is when my team and I put aside dedicated time to plan our annual employee Thank You Party. It’s our opportunity to reflect on our team’s accomplishments, connect before the new year, and genuinely thank everyone for their hard work. I figured, now is the perfect time to discuss Inspire’s favorite practices to keep stress low and seasonal cheer high, before the December dilemma is upon us.
The top three questions clients ask us this time of year are:

  1. What can we do to make our holiday party more appropriate and inclusive?
  2. What are the guidelines to exchange gifts?
  3. How can we best manage holiday PTO requests?

If you are grappling with these questions for your team, leave your worries behind and read on.

1. Holiday Party Etiquette

Holiday parties are a great gesture to thank employees for their contributions. They boost morale, build company culture, and are downright fun. Want to make this year’s holiday gathering your company’s best, most welcoming and inclusive event yet? Before you moonwalk across the dance floor, check out these best practices:

  • Serving alcohol? Inspire Human Resources consultant, Beth Adamson, suggests “offering [employees] an Uber or Lyft home or to a commuter hub for safety and to encourage participation.” Also be sure to provide plenty of food and mocktail options in consideration of non-drinkers.
  • Want to save on the bar tab? Host your event during the work day, or skip alcohol altogether (and offer bottles of wine as a gift option for employees to take home after the event). Here at Inspire, we’re a big fan of the work day event, and keep the alcoholic beverages light.
  • November & December are packed with religious holidays. Select a date that is considerate of religious observations, and set the example for being inclusive.  Just to name a couple, Kwanzaa runs from December 26th – January 1st each year, and this year, Hanukkah is sundown December 12th, and ends sundown December 20th.
  • Solicit employee suggestions for menu options that are significant to their traditions – this gets people involved and ensures they’ll be new foods to try at the party!
  • Keep decorations simple. Swap the Santa cut-outs for seasonal or company-themed décor. Think autumn colors for a fall party, or lights and faux snow in the winter.
  • Plus one, anyone? If your organization’s budget permits, extend the holiday party invite to allow for a guest attendee. Deloitte hosts an annual holiday party with entertainment and gifts, and encourages employees to bring their families. This puts the focus on celebrating togetherness, as opposed to celebrating a specific holiday.

2. Holiday Gift Exchanges

If you’ve ever participated in a gift exchange at work, either with co-workers, or between management and employees, you either love or despise it. What I’ve found is that these types of exchanges can be stressful when there is no opt-out option. De-stress this year’s swap with some simple ground rules:

  • Make gift exchanges as low-key as possible. Let those that want to participate make the effort to sign up, as opposed to those wanting to opt out having to publicly decline the invite.
  • Set a reasonable max spend budget for gifts and require that participating employees stick to it.
  • Check the gift-giving policy. No policy in place? Then now is a great time to develop one.  Address if gifts can be given or received, whether giving gifts to management is a yay or nay (gifts typically flow downward), the appropriate value of gifts, and gifts that are not allowed (personal, gifts that are intended to be worn such as jewelry, etc.).
  • Collect voluntary donations to a charity or encourage employees to contribute to their favorite foundation or local nonprofits instead of an office gift swap.
  • If it is company policy for management to give gifts to employees, consider shared gifts that the entire team can enjoy (perhaps a special staff lunch or yummy baked goods), a day off, or provide several options that people can choose from. You can also get creative, and try something out of the box so long as it’s inclusive. One year, a Facebook executive bought gifts for the spouses of her team members and wrote personalized notes thanking them for their patience during a very strenuous time at the company.

3. Holiday PTO Requests

Fourth quarter can be filled with PTO requests as employees carve out time to relax, and use vacation time before forfeiting it. Avoid feeling like Abbott and Costello’s Who’s on first?, with the stress that comes with last-minute requests and scheduling gaps, by considering these best practices:

  • Make vacation company-wide. If your firm can withstand shared vacation time, consider blocking out a Winter vacation week for all employees. Approximately 15% of organizations (including Orbitz, Atlantic Records, KPMG, International Data Group, and Cake & Arrow) close their offices the last week of December with pay to employees during this time. Nothing says ‘we appreciate you, and support rest and recuperation’ like guilt-free downtime. Coordinated vacation time also helps with the congestion of PTO requests from employees rushing to take time off before losing vacation time.
  • If a company-wide vacation is not in the cards, then get a jump start on PTO requests. Encourage employees to schedule holiday time off well in advance. In many industries, employees choose their vacation time three to five months in advance, and this can be extremely helpful in planning for coverage specifically around the holidays.
  • Work while you wait. It’s beneficial to allow employees to work from home if the work permits. Have an employee waiting on a home delivery during the holiday season? Instead of them taking a day off and potentially leaving the team short-staffed, if they can still be productive from home, this flexibility is a win-win.
  • Make it a team sport. While it may be more time consuming, involving the entire team in scheduling vacation opens the lines of communication, and creates a collaborative environment. Inspire Human Resources consultant, Beth Adamson, has encouraged teams to “work out schedules (and even rotate weeks) to allow for coverage so all the business needs are met.  Managers may need reminding that holiday time off is for everyone to reconnect with family and friends — not just those with children.”
  • Treat holidays like ice, and let them float. If an employee doesn’t celebrate a holiday that the company recognizes, consider allowing for floating holidays or offering increased pay for their flexibility.

The holiday season is a great time to reward employees and demonstrate your appreciation for their hard work. If you have questions about planning inclusive holiday events, creating a gift exchange policy or filling staffing gaps caused by holiday PTO requests, Inspire Human Resources can help. Do not hesitate to reach out at (917) 612-8571 or [email protected]. Cheers to a joyful holiday season – in and out of work – this year!