Company Culture

What businesses with great company culture know about celebrating the festive season

company culture

The tinsel is out, Michael Bublé has been defrosted, and everyone is getting ready to get a major chill on this festive season. Which of course means one thing - it’s time for the end-of-year office shenanigans.

How does your company celebrate the holidays?

If you want to play it clever, the lead-up to the annual summer vacation can be a very valuable time to promote a diverse and inclusive company culture at your place of business. However, this means you may need to think outside of the box and steer clear of a few very common pitfalls that many South African companies still accept as the norm. 

Wait! Before you leave in a ‘these party-pooper snowflakes with all their feelings’ huff, we would like to remind you that we are moving into a shiny new decade next year. It’s 2020 folks! We’re getting emails on our watches and logging calories on our phones, don’t you think it’s about time we dust off our ideas about festive season company culture as well? Toe nou - it’s not going to be all that painful shifting those paradigms, we promise!



1. Getting stuck on Christmas

Although the official public holidays in December fall on days that mark celebrations of the Christian faith, not every employee at your company celebrates Christmas. Some of them celebrate Eid, Diwali or Rosh Hashanah. Be sensitive to this. 

READ MORE: How to build a winning company culture that drives success


2. Not making the year-end fun for sober folks

Does your end-of-year function require alcohol as a social lubricant? No-one likes to think so, but there are still many companies for whom the genteel blow-out is the year-end function norm. Major eeeek. If there is only one thing you change around the office during the festive season this year, make it this - choose a fun team-building activity that everyone can enjoy over a boozy lunch. If certain members of the team want to continue and take things further after the fact, they are free to do so. It’s cheaper, less likely to cause lawsuits and your company won’t be implicated in any ill-conceived Facebook selfies. 


3. Assuming everyone is keen on taking time off

Not every member of your team has a family they can go home to every day, or share the holidays with. Some people have major issues with their parents, others are divorced parents who won’t have the kids this year, and there are those who simply cannot afford the travel expenses to make it all the way to their family in the Eastern Cape or abroad. Some people are simply alone. This is why it’s a good idea to allow your employees the option of working over the festive season if they prefer, instead of forcing them to take leave when everyone else does and face that dreaded quiet period alone, without any distractions. 

READ NOW: Employee Recognition: The ultimate kickstart for a great company culture


4. Sticking on your CSI like a bow

Have you ever noticed how many companies are all of a sudden contributing to charities around the festive season? While every donation is welcome, of course, corporate social investment should not be something your business sticks on like a bow on special occasions. Instead of making a token donation around the end of the year, rather choose to partner with a charity or NGO on an on-going basis. This way you can ensure that your contribution makes a tangible difference, rather than just patching a hole and making for a pretty Facebook post. 

TOP TIP: If your business donates time or hands out gifts around Christmas time, rather steer clear of posting pictures of the event on social media. This type of virtue signalling is not well received by the public and you’re also not being very considerate to the children and/or less-fortunate adults in the pictures. 


5. Making a bunch of needless waste

While this may not have a direct impact on your employees and their immediate wellbeing as such, it does have bearing on how your company approaches the climate crisis and sustainability in general. ‘But it’s only a few strings of tinsel, a plastic tree and two dozen balloons’... said 553 425 South African companies. 

Don’t let the festive spirit of the holidays cloud your judgement regarding needless waste. Want to brighten up the office for your year-end function? Buy a bunch of living plants and gift them to your employees afterwards (with instructions on how to care for it!), or challenge every team to make some decorations using recycled materials (just remember to recycle it again instead of tossing it in the trash). 

Makes a lot of sense when you start thinking about it from an underrepresented point of view, does it not?

In short, here’s how you can ensure that your business practices diversity and inclusion throughout the holiday period: 


  1. Be inclusive of all festive celebrations, not just Christmas. 
  2. Make the year-end fun for everyone, including non-drinkers. 
  3. Don’t make annual leave mandatory at a certain time of year. 
  4. Choose your charities to align with your goals and vision. 
  5. Don’t forget the environment when choosing your office decorations. 

Following these guidelines will set the stage for a more diverse and inclusive festive period at your company. Make this the year to show your staff and clients that you take your company culture seriously. 

Are you ready to super-charge your culture in 2020 and beyond? Take a look at our eBook on how to build a successful employee recognition program in just 10-steps. Simply click the button below to get your copy 👇

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