Global workplaces at Christmastime23.12.19
The biggest message at Christmastime is that of ‘togetherness’. We see this everywhere, from anxiously-awaited holiday adverts, to sentimental greeting cards lining the shops. But for your international employees, remote workers, freelancers or contractors, this can be an incredibly isolating time of year.
For example, while your organisation may have Christmas celebrations in all its offices across the world, are these simply an echo based on your flagship office traditions? If the holiday season at your company is a copy-and-paste event in every country, then these well-meaning festivities can begin to feel like a hollow obligation, rather than a celebration for the real people working there. Whether your organisation is 99% UK-based with one office in Poland, or split evenly across 20+ countries – unless your Christmas celebrations are inclusive and tailored by country, they won’t resonate with employees. In fact, they’ll do the opposite: they’ll frustrate, isolate, and disengage.
On the other hand, if you talk to your employees in countries where Christmas is celebrated, and find out what Christmas looks like to them, you can you empower global teams to celebrate with their local customs. This boosts engagement, creates a diverse and multifaceted company culture, and even educates and inspires the rest of your workforce. To start, here are some workplace traditions and tweaks you can adjust and celebrate company-wide.
In Norway, the Christmas work party is more like a Christmas feast – Julebord is the Christmas party organised by employers for their employees. Julebord is a time for employees to let their hair down and cheers to a productive next year. Usually held in the days before Christmas, this classic work party typically consists of a traditional Scandinavian buffet, speeches from employees, and entertainment.
Ukraine, Russia, Egypt and more: 7th January
For many Orthodox countries around the world, Christmas Day is in fact celebrated on the 7th January, as these countries follow the traditional Julian calendar. While some may also celebrate on the 24th or 25th of December, it’s important that employers research (this can be as simple as asking your employees!) the important days for your people, and factor in the notable dates for different employees around the world when planning celebrations and closing of business.
France: New Year’s cards
While Christmas cards are not unheard of in France, you’re more likely to find desks scattered with ‘New Year’s’ cards. Generally, cards are sent between Christmas and the New Year to wish good tidings for the following year. With Christmas cards being such a large part of festive traditions around the world, employers with businesses in France may want to consider sending New Year’s cards instead (to both clients and employees). This is even a cheerful tradition that could be replicated in other territories – because who doesn’t want a cheery card wishing them good luck in the following year!
Poland, Denmark, Spain and more: Christmas Eve
Similar to celebrating on the 7th January, many employees will host primary celebrations the 24th December. This ranges from Midnight Mass followed by a buffet, to an early family dinner, then partying until the sun comes up! Countries across Eastern Europe, South America and Scandinavia most commonly celebrate on Christmas Eve with family, followed by smaller celebrations and seeing friends on the 25th. In the UK and USA, Christmas Eve is largely business-as-usual, but if you’re operating in other countries, it’s worth bearing in mind that your employees may expect to have the 24th free to spend with loved ones.
Southern hemisphere: Summer festivities
A white Christmas is the dream for a majority of the world, but our friends down under have other plans – Christmas in the Southern hemisphere, particularly New Zealand and Australia, is largely an outdoors affair. Most Australians spend Christmas Day with family and friends by a barbeque on the beach, and the holiday décor is seasonal to match – much of Oceania decorate with colourful Christmas flora like ‘Christmas bush’ and ‘Christmas bells’ to go with the classic Christmas tree. A quick win for employers here is to adjust communications and decorations accordingly; try to avoid sending out blanket emails to all employees with images of snowy mountains and fireside festivities…
What are the takeaways?
Wherever your workforce is based this holiday season, utilise the tools at your fingertips: talk to your employees about their preferences, tailor office décor, communications and policies to different cultures, connect colleagues cross-country by sharing local facts and traditions company-wide. Above all, show that you are listening and that international employees are more than just an extra pair of hands: they are an integral, valued part of your organisation.
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Lorelei is an avid proponent of iced coffee, video games and anything to do with outerspace.
Copywriter by day, filmmaker by night – Lorelei graduated from university with a degree in Film and Screenwriting, and continues to write and direct films with their production company. When not at work, you can probably stumble upon Lorelei buying overpriced cold brew in a hipster coffee shop or rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer for the 100th time.