Creating Inclusive Holiday Policies to Provide Workplace Balance

This article on inclusive holiday policies is an abbreviated version of a research report prepared by Kindred Concierge. Concierge is our on-demand research and insights team that helps our members get the data and information they need to navigate complex decision-making within their organizations. To learn more about the Kindred experience and member benefits, apply here. For existing members, log in to the member portal and maximize your Kindred experience through Concierge today.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees are setting new standards for benefits. A recent Bankrate study found that 41% of Americans who are currently employed or looking for work expect to work remotely at least one day a week in the next 12 months. Survey respondents also noted that flexibility (56%), higher pay (53%), and job security (47%) are among their top three concerns from their jobs.

Additional findings indicate that many are not afraid to leave if their current company doesn’t meet their needs. Of the 2,452 adults surveyed, 55% were somewhat or very likely to search for a job in the next 12 months. 

Paid time off (PTO) benefits and other inclusive holiday policies are becoming crucial to an employer’s ability to attract and retain talent. In an inclusive and equitable workplace, providing flexibility around company holidays goes beyond only marking federal holidays. Leaders must understand how to foster equity and garner respect for employees of different cultural and religious backgrounds by bringing inclusion and flexibility to calendars that fall under their spheres of influence.

Holiday Observance in the Workplace

In the past year, there has been some progress in the equitable movement to influence the calendar. For instance, prior to Juneteenth becoming a federal holiday this year, many companies had formally added it as a company-wide holiday following last year’s calls to action to systemic injustice. The movement to replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples Day is another example.

In addition to commonly observed paid holidays, organizations are supplementing PTO policies with other company holidays or paid opportunities to recognize religious holidays.

Providing these opportunities is essential to creating a culture of belonging in the workplace, notes Elyssa Byck, COO of Kindred.

“When a company values diversity of identities and differences, including religion, it must also prioritize inclusion by creating a culture of belonging,” she says. “Offering employees the opportunity to celebrate their heritage, culture, or meaningful days is an imperative piece of recognition of identity.”

Some of the ways companies provide additional time-off opportunities include:

Mental Health Breaks

The mental health impacts of the pandemic have highlighted the need for companies to be more intentional about addressing the mental health needs of employees. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey, nearly 40% of respondents do not believe their employers have taken actions to support their mental wellbeing. In the past few months, companies such as LinkedIn, Bumble, and Nike have provided week-long, company-wide breaks to combat stress and burnout after a year of uncertainty. Companies may also choose to offer monthly wellness days to give employees needed rest.

Floating Holidays

Historically, employees used PTO days to celebrate religious holidays that aren’t commonly paid holidays. However, floating holidays provide employees with the opportunity to take paid days off outside of their allocated personal time to celebrate religious and cultural holidays. A survey of HR and benefits professionals from 20 industries found that 53% of employers offer floating holidays. This level of flexibility contributes to an inclusive culture that promotes creativity, productivity, and innovation.

Days of Service

Days of service or volunteer days enable employees to donate time to organizations of their choice of their employers’ choice. Organizations also have the option to donate company resources or a monetary investment in addition to employees’ time. According to Voluntare, offering well-designed volunteering opportunities can help increase purpose at work, pride in the employer, and job satisfaction. How a company chooses to structure its days of service, and whether or not they are mandatory, depends on its culture. However, leaders should keep in mind that the desired outcomes for the business (e.g., employee engagement or culture building) do not supersede the needs of the nonprofit partner or served community. 

Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Policies

According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, taking a vacation can reduce stress, help prevent burnout, and promote work-life balance. The holidays a company provides and how it recognizes them (i.e., as a day of rest or a day of service) depend on its culture. That said, below are some general guidelines to keep in mind while developing inclusive holiday policies.

  1. Create clear guidelines for employees on how to take leave, and keep employees informed about policy changes. Visibility around policies will encourage team members to take the time they need.
  2. Create a policy for considering time-off requests and provide a framework for urgent requests.
  3. Ask your employees what matters most to them. “Offering the opportunity for your employees to be seen and heard is essential to creating a culture of belonging,” Kindred’s Byck says. 
  4. Take note of religious holidays and PTO regulations. According to HR Resolutions, if an employer chooses to deny a day-off request for religious reasons, they must provide a reason unrelated to religion or belief to justify the decision. 
  5. Ensure time off policies are flexible to account for mental health and wellbeing.
  6. Encourage leaders to model taking vacation and cultural holidays. As Dr. Christine Moutier from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recently noted, taking care of your mental health and resilience shouldn’t be viewed as resting on your laurels. “Everybody needs to take time off…It’s really more of a mindset of when you unplug, please do unplug, or whatever works for you,” she said.
  7. Consider setting minimums for vacation leave in flexible and unlimited time off policies. This helps ensure all employees take an adequate amount of time to rest.
  8. Whether or not you provide time off for cultural holidays, acknowledge the day and have a framework for deciding what days to commemorate across the calendar.

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Kindred Team

Published on September 02, 2021