Considerations for HR During the 2020 Holiday Season

As 2020 comes to a close, corporate America (and beyond) is faced with a very different holiday season.
Considerations for HR During the 2020 Holiday Season
Adrian Johansen

As 2020 comes to a close, corporate America (and beyond) is faced with a very different holiday season than we have been familiar with before. The arrival of COVID-19 has put more people on edge, and many aren’t feeling the same warmth and comfort that they usually do when the holidays come around.

The Human Resources team at your organization must think proactively about how to make the next couple of months as safe and efficient as possible. Additionally, careful planning is necessary for any end of the year celebrations as we face a new normal. Let’s look at how to prepare your workforce for the holidays and some fun ideas for corporate events.

Time-Off Expectations

With pressure to buy gifts, attend parties, and plan family gatherings, it is no surprise that many people are stressed during the holidays. When you add work into the mix, it can be too much for many to take. You want to mitigate this stress, so your employees don’t feel burned out, and the first step is to make sure that your company policies are not the problem, especially if your business picks up during the holidays.

If your company imposes blackout dates during the busy holiday months, then make these expectations clear ahead of time. Many employees are going to want time off, but if it is not realistic, then you need to make it clear in your employee handbook. This way, if employees want some well-deserved time off before the holidays, they can do so without worrying that they will lose their vacation time.

Of course, the best scenario would be to plan your staffing needs ahead of time so you can allow employees to take time off during the holidays if they request to do so. If you don’t have the resources for full vacations, then determine if you can offer flexible schedules that allow employees to have time for family while also working their 40 hours. This will also show that your company promotes a healthy work-life balance, which is so important to employees these days.

Holiday Concerns in 2020

This year, holiday festivities will likely look much different than ever before, and proper precautions are required. When it comes to holiday events and parties, you need to be careful with how you plan and carry out these gatherings.

When you send out the invites, make attendance optional.

The need to attend a holiday party on top of everything else is another source of stress for some, so be lenient and considerate of their time, especially if you already require overtime.

With the dark cloud of COVID-19 hanging over our heads, it is important to follow CDC guidelines, especially if you are planning to have an in-person holiday party. Your HR team should first research the rate of community transmission of the virus in your area, and if the numbers are high, consider canceling the event. If the transmission rate is low, you should still remain cautious by following all other recommendations, including requiring employees to wear masks and having hand sanitizer available.

Both a positive company culture and an inclusive office environment are more important now than at any other time of the year. We tend to get caught up in our own beliefs, but as an HR team, it’s essential you respect all points of view during this season. The best idea is to have a general “holiday” celebration and avoid specific labels like Christmas or Hanukkah. Every aspect of the holiday celebrations should be carefully planned, down to the meals you provide.

Some cultures avoid eating meat, dairy, alcohol, and other foods during their specific holiday tradition, so make sure you have plenty of options, so no one is left out.

Holiday Events

So, what types of holiday events can you have during the turbulent times of 2020?

While there will be restrictions, there are still plenty of fun ideas that will bring joy and togetherness to your hard-working teams.

If celebrating in person is important to your organization, then you can have the event outside in the open air to avoid the spread of germs on office surfaces. If the weather permits, you could have a company picnic with social distancing or plan a special presentation at a drive-in movie theater.

Many companies that employ a remote workforce during this time can have team-building events like a virtual party. This will be a great opportunity for everyone to see one another from the comfort of their own homes. There are several fun activities you can plan, including a gingerbread decorating contest, holiday jingle showcase, or an hour where you all share your favorite holiday memories.

An idea that is perfect for a remote gathering is the white elephant gift exchange, which is always good for a few laughs, and as a bonus, everyone mails each other a fun gift.

Regardless of the type of holiday event your company is hosting, it is important that HR sets ground rules and ensures a safe experience. All executives should set an example and the right tone for the event, so it doesn’t get out of hand. If there is alcohol involved, managers should stick to only one drink or none at all. Ensure that all employees have the tech available to join remote parties and safe transportation to get home from physical outings.

While there is always the possibility of stress, the holidays are generally a joyous time for most people. Try not to be too hard on employees during this time and promote fairness throughout. These gestures will go a long way.

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