Neil Shaw, Wales Online, November 30, 2022
A group that works with organisations on issues of diversity and inclusivity says it may be time to cancel Christmas. The call comes after new statistics showed that less than half of the population of England and Wales described themselves as Christian in the 2021 census, meaning that Christianity is now a minority religion.
But the UK still has a ‘heavy emphasis on celebrating the birth of Jesus’, according to Watch This Sp_ce, an award-winning diversity and inclusion consultancy. They say that, from November onwards, the decorations in town centres, the advertising on our televisions, the constant emails from retailers, all imply that everyone will be celebrating on December 25.
But they say many people feel left out and excluded from the celebrations, while their own religious or spiritual festival is ignored, and more feel under pressure to spend large mounts of money for ‘no real reason’.
Watch This Sp_ce says that, at work, these issues are ‘loaded into a pressure cooker’, highlighting people in the team that don’t celebrate at this time of year, forcing them to either ‘conform to a religion they don’t believe in’ or stand out as a highly visible minority amongst their teammates, who may well be labelling them Scrooge.
Watch This Sp_ce us encouraging organisations to reconsider their approach to the festive season. Co-Creator Allegra Chapman said: “Christmas can be a time of fun and joy, but it is also filled with stresses, challenges and discomfort. Rather than forcing everyone to celebrate in an old-fashioned way, in the name of ‘just a bit of fun’, there is a great opportunity for organisations to take a fresh look at how and why they bring their teams together.”
Watch This Sp_ce said we don’t have to cancel Christmas altogether, but ‘perhaps it is time to rethink how we celebrate it’.
Here are some ways that organisations can make their festive season, and the whole year, more inclusive of everyone, according to Watch This Sp_ce.
1) Ask your staff what they want
If you collect clear demographic data on your staff, you probably already have a good idea of the mix of religious festivals that are celebrated amongst your team. (If not, that data will be invaluable in all sorts of ways, so now’s a good time to start collecting it.) Either way, it’s worth asking questions about how important Christmas is to them, whether they enjoy celebrating it at work, how they enjoy celebrating at work, what they don’t enjoy, and what other festivals they would like to celebrate.
2) Make a calendar
Creating a calendar of religious and secular celebrations means that you can mark all of them. Sending a simple email round to say Eid Mubarak to all staff, or wish everyone a Happy Diwali, for example, takes little time and effort but helps everyone to feel included and valued. You can also use this knowledge in your external marketing to celebrate with your customers or clients. If you know you have a high number of people who practice a particular religion in your team, you may want to find out from them how you can mark their festivals in a respectful way in the workplace.
3) Be flexible
If some staff prefer to take time off for Diwali but work over Christmas, then offer them that option if possible. Even if that involves them working from home over the Christmas period, and it may require you to trust them to work while their line manager is on festive leave. Having faith in your staff is the cornerstone of inclusion – if you know that they are capable of doing their job, and you have set them clear objectives within reasonable timeframes, then there is no reason why they can’t complete their tasks without someone standing over them.
4) Celebrate purposefully
Rather than enforcing awkward socialising for the sake of Christmas, maybe it’s time to reconsider how and why you bring your staff together. Celebrating milestones in your achievements as a team, throughout the year, and bringing people together in a way that helps them to get to know one another and understand their work is much more powerful than everyone drunkenly draping tinsel over each other. You might choose to have a spring, summer, autumn and winter celebration, for example, where you reflect on progress, recognise successes and think ahead to the coming season. If your work dos are going to involve alcohol, which might well be what the majority of your team want, make sure that there are plenty of alternatives available and that drinks are just an accompaniment to the event rather than the reason everyone is there. The idea is to allow everyone to connect and socialise, not to encourage everyone to get wasted.