Lead With Inclusion

Can floating holidays foster inclusion?

Published June 28, 2023

It’s summer time here in the U.S. Do you know what that means?

Longer days. Warmer weather. More time spent outdoors, to name a few. But summer time is also often a time for celebration. We celebrate a handful of holidays in the summer months: Juneteenth, July Fourth, and Labor Day come to mind.

When it comes to paid holidays, is your company ahead of the curve? Or behind the times?

It’s a tricky balance, of course. If your employee population is anything like that of the country as a whole, it’s likely very diverse. Lots of different cultures represented, and lots of different holidays that hold meaning for your employees. With so many competing priorities, it can be challenging to create a paid holiday calendar that works for everyone.

These days, many organizations have found a solution by implementing what we call ‘Floating Holidays.’ The great thing about floating holidays is that they allow employees to be in control of their own time. They choose when they want to observe a holiday, which leaves room for your employees to observe and celebrate the days that mean most to them. But even if your organization has already implemented floating holidays, there are still a few more things to keep in mind if you truly want to create a culture of inclusion around holidays. 

Be an Inclusive Leader

If you’re an organizational leader, try doing an audit of your current calendar of paid holidays. Be critical in asking yourself what’s missing. If your paid holidays include only secular celebrations and Christian holidays, that’s a red flag to pay attention to. Think about your employees who may observe other religions, like Islam or Judaism. How are you creating space for them to celebrate? Similarly, if you’re currently observing July Fourth but not Juneteenth, that’s a disparity to look at more closely. What about Veterans Day – is that included? Think about the identities of your team members and consider if there may be gaps in your current approach.

If you’re already offering floating holidays, are you doing so in an inclusive way? If you’re giving employees the freedom to choose which holidays to observe, yet you’re telling them they can’t take time off during certain holidays due to “business needs,” you’re still not quite there yet. At the end of the day, the most important thing your business needs is its employees. If team members don’t feel they’ve been given the space to take the time they need, they will find another employer who does. Trust me.

Lead With Inclusion

Individually, you can think deeply about the culture you and your team may be creating when it comes to floating holidays. Has your team created a culture of guilt around taking time off? If employees tend to feel hesitant or fearful of using their floating holidays due to the way it may be perceived by their teammates (or the amount of work they’ll have to do when they return), it’s time to reorient your culture to a new normal. No one should be made to feel ashamed for taking time off to observe important cultural moments. How can you, on an individual level, have your teammates’ backs? That may look like supporting your teammate with a project while they’re out of office, or checking in with them when they return to see how you can lend a helping hand. Either way, it’s important to create a positive culture around time off, where employees feel supported in taking the time they need.

We may be midway through the year (where does the time go?), but it’s never too late to download our 2023 Diversity Calendar. It’s a downloadable resource that includes holidays and cultural celebrations across all lines of identity – a great tool to reference if you’re considering making some updates to your paid holiday schedule. If you haven’t already, download your copy today – and be sure to share it with your teammates. Download the calendar here.

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