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Inclusive corporate holidays: What do your employees want?


Are your company’s paid holidays strategic?

Today’s job candidates aren’t just looking for the right number of paid holidays – having “enough” days off that don’t require them to use PTO. Many employees also desire a company calendar that makes them feel seen, valued and celebrated on important days, while still granting them adequate work-life balance, of course.

When choosing which company holidays to observe, employers have the opportunity to:

  • Reinforce their organizational values
  • Create a more equitable holiday schedule – connecting their calendar to their diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy
  • Leverage paid holidays to stay competitive in the talent market

Is it time for you to expand the goals that are underpinning your paid holiday schedule? Below are some important steps to work through before rolling out a new calendar or inclusive holiday policies.

Find out which holidays matter to your employees

It would be a mistake to start editing your corporate holiday calendar without first getting real input from your employees.

You likely have a mix of expectations and preferences among your employees due to cultural, generational and religious differences that make your workforce diverse.

To that end, it doesn’t work to assume you know what’s best for everyone. Assumptions fail to consider your organization’s unique culture and can lead to errors, such as taking away a paid holiday that you didn’t realize was popular.

Instead, changes must be employee driven. To discover which days carry the most significance for your employees, you can:

  • Track popular PTO days that fall on holidays not recognized by the company.
  • Survey all of your employees about their preferences.
  • Host a town hall (and make sure the right people are present to share).
  • Have face-to-face conversations with smaller teams.

Listening to your employees’ needs and wants ahead of making changes can help you produce a more inclusive holiday schedule.

Remember your core values

The holidays you observe as an organization reflect your core values. That’s why it’s important to view your choices in this area as a way to honor what you’ve said matters to you as a company.

If you are a startup or young company, you have a fresh slate upon which to create a calendar that coincides with the culture you’re building. Take the opportunity to work from your values, not just the list of federal holidays.

If you’re an established business looking to reconcile corporate holidays with DEI, incorporating changes into an existing calendar that everyone has grown to know takes time and clear communication. But this work can be worth the additional effort.

Start by thinking about your company’s mission, vision and values, and explore how you can reinforce them with your holiday policies and calendar.

For example:

  • Are you a veteran-friendly employer? Consider making Veterans Day a paid holiday.
  • Do you value civic involvement? Give employees Election Day off.
  • Are you a faith-based organization? Choose days that are important to your community of faith.

When employee-driven and values-driven, your paid holiday strategy can really begin to take shape.

Make significant days special

The reality of building a strategic holiday schedule is that you ultimately have to balance what you’ve learned is important to your employees with what you can afford to offer as a business. You also have to think about constraints beyond the financials, including your customers’ expectations on certain holidays, compliance with state and federal laws and your payroll technology.

The good news is that for each holiday you choose to observe, there are multiple ways your organization can acknowledge and celebrate it.

1. Close the office

Closing your offices for the day is the ultimate way to honor a day of significance.

Before adding a new paid holiday, be sure to consider:

  • When do your clients take time off?
  • How does the general public function on this day?
  • Will all of your departments be able to take this day off (including your call center or IT staff)?
  • Can you offer a new paid holiday without cutting back on PTO?
  • Can you give plenty of advance notice before making a schedule change?

If you can make it work logistically, expanding your paid holidays can be very meaningful to your employees. It communicates that you’ve listened and are choosing to celebrate with them in the biggest way possible.

2. Give employees a floating holiday

You can ensure everyone gets a preferred day off by offering a floating holiday, which functions like a hybrid between a company-wide paid holiday and a PTO day. Floating holidays allow your employees to take off whenever they have something to celebrate. Unlike PTO, floating holidays don’t carry over into the next year if unused.

Calculating payouts on floating holidays can be tricky when employees leave your company, depending on your state’s wage regulations. However, due to their flexibility, floating holidays are unmatched when it comes to making paid holidays more equitable and inclusive.

3. Acknowledge the importance of the day

When you can’t give employees a holiday off due to business needs, you can still celebrate and recognize significant days to show employees that you support them.

For example, you could:

  • Give holiday pay
  • Make the day deadline free
  • Provide catered lunch
  • Decorate the office
  • Allow casual dress
  • Allow remote work
  • Release employees from work early

Employees want to know that their employer cares and understands. You might not be able to give your employees exactly what they want on a holiday, but conveying the importance of the day makes a difference.

Do more with your holiday schedule

When you start with your employees’ true preferences paired with your organization’s values, your holiday schedule will be more equitable and inclusive, and your paid holidays can become a strategic asset that sets your employee benefits program apart.

A corporate calendar that makes your employees feel represented and aligns with your values helps you more easily build a diverse and talented workforce.

For more information on how to attract and retain smart, high-performing employees with competitive benefits and workplace perks, download our free magazine: The Insperity guide to employee benefits.