It’s beginning to look a lot like the holiday season. As the festive time comes upon us, there are many considerations to keep in mind when preparing communications over the coming months, including what, when and how to share news, updates and other messages with your employees.
For most workers in the U.S., holiday schedules are based on the federal holiday calendar. Established in 1870 by Congress, the first federal holiday calendar recognized New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day as official holidays only for federal employees in the District of Columbia.
Over the years, the calendar expanded nationally, adding new holidays along the way—the most recent being Martin Luther King Day in 1983 and Juneteenth in 2021. While the addition of new holidays has helped to diversify the calendar, it’s still not entirely inclusive. For example, while Christmas is broadly recognized, other holidays from different religious or cultural traditions are not.
For communicators, this presents a few tricky issues. Should you reference the holidays in your outreach to employees? If so, which holidays should you recognize? Is it okay to wish your employees or customers a happy [insert holiday here] or should you say nothing at all? How do you handle messaging for international employees who follow an entirely different holiday calendar? Let’s break it down.
An important consideration is inclusivity. If you do choose to send an all-employee message out for Christmas—which is generally considered a Christian holiday—do you also have a plan for content that recognizes the holidays of other faiths and cultural traditions such as Rosh Hashanah, Diwali or Ramadan? If not, it may be best to skip the typically religious-affiliated holiday posts and focus instead on holidays that apply to a broad range of people. For example, the new year is celebrated around the world and has no major religious or cultural ties. If your company is U.S.-based, you may consider content for certain federal holidays such as Memorial Day, Labor Day, Independence Day and Veteran’s Day.
On the other hand, taking an inclusive approach presents a great opportunity to recognize and educate your team about the different cultural traditions across your organization. If your employees are open to it, ask them to write up a blog post or email message explaining the significance of their cultures and celebrations—whether it’s explaining the tradition of constructing a sukkah, or tiny huts, for the Jewish celebration of Sukkot, or the rules of and reasons for fasting during Ramadan.
Is It the Most Wonderful Time of the Year?
For some, holidays may not be a source of joy, but rather of stress, depression and loneliness. Complicated feelings about holidays can be caused by many things, such as financial stress, grieving a loved one and difficult family dynamics.
In fact, a 2021 report revealed that three in five Americans feel their mental health is negatively impacted by the holidays. To add to this, the National Alliance on Mental Illness reports that more than half report an increase in depression.
Because of this, it’s important to be mindful around all holidays when reaching out to staff across newsletters, intranet channels, email communications and even personal interactions. For example, dedicating the May issue of a newsletter to Mother’s Day—while done with the best of intentions—may be isolating for those who are unable to have children, have experienced pregnancy loss, or do not have a good relationship with their own mother or children.
When it comes to the big holidays, consider a different approach for your messaging. Instead of focusing exclusively on holiday-focused material such as gift exchanges and holiday traditions, it may be a good time to refresh your employees’ memories about your company benefits. Reminders about health and wellness benefits, specifically mental health resources, serve a dual purpose. This type of messaging provides an opportunity to remind your employees about the value of the benefits available to them and may also provide a much-needed resource to someone who is struggling through the season. While the holidays are certainly an emphasis this time of year, try to strike a balance between the merry-and-bright content and the standard information that your outreach typically includes.
Rainstorms and Blizzards and Hurricanes – Oh My!
While not specifically holiday related, with the change of seasons comes an inevitable change in weather. Depending on where you live, this could range from severe thunderstorms to tropical storms and hurricanes to white-out blizzards and ice storms and even tornado warnings.
Before that big storm hits, consider the last time you discussed severe weather policies with your team. If they haven’t heard about them since their first day of orientation, chances are it’s time for a refresh. The best time to communicate these policies is well in advance of an anticipated storm to ensure your staff knows what to do in the case of severe weather.
These policies are likely to vary based on the type of organization. Individuals with desk jobs can likely carry on working from their homes, whereas individuals who work in hospitals, emergency services or transit are expected to be at work regardless of what’s showing up on the weather radar.
Here are a few important things to consider when creating and communicating emergency weather policies for your business:
- Are there guidelines in place for when staff can stay home during extreme weather?
- How will you communicate to your team if the office is closed and remote work is expected?
- What happens if your staff loses internet or power?
- Is there reasonable accommodation in place if they need to arrive early or shelter in place?
Posting reminders about weather-related policies is a great way to fill up your content calendar for your intranet, newsletters or regular CEO messages.
The Bottom Line
Holidays and seasonal changes present a number of opportunities to reach out to your team. But before you finalize your editorial calendar, take a moment to consider the unique makeup of your organization. There’s certainly no one-size-fits-all approach to handling this time of year, but doing so with a mindset of compassion, open mindedness and preparedness can go a long way when it comes to communicating effectively with your team.