Tips for creating smart corporate holiday policies

The holiday season is a time of heartwarming TV movies, warm mugs of cocoa and houses decked with dazzling lights. But in the office, it can be a time of stress and anxiety. 

Many HR professionals and employees alike fret over the frenzy of the winter holidays. Not only are there family demands to be met, but the year is winding down to a close and important projects and deadlines often remain on the table. In this seasonal scramble, it can be a huge relief to have effective corporate policies in place to help cut down on the confusion and ease some pressure. 

To guide you, here are four tips for creating smart corporate holiday policies:

1. Aim for fairness when negotiating PTO time
Don't be surprised if every employee at your company wants time off on the days before and after Christmas. However, the unfortunate reality is that the work may still need to get done during this time. Creating a holiday time-off policy that is centered on fairness and empathy can help you sidestep any bad feelings. 

holiday Effective policies can help keep employees safe during the holiday season.

Using a first-come, first-served approach has become the go-to method for many organizations dealing with this sticky situation. This helps employers plan ahead for coverage, while acknowledging that some workers may still have to work on the days surrounding the holiday to keep the business functioning. 

Another option companies have, however, is shutting down operations for a couple of days. This may not be feasible for every organization, but if possible, doing so can prevent a lot of stress and resentment. 

2. Acknowledge the diversity of beliefs 
Your office should be a place where people of various belief systems and religions can feel comfortable, and antidiscrimination laws protect this right. Make your holiday parties nondenominational and use secular decorations to add some festive flair to the office. Note that while you as an employer cannot put up any decorations that have overt religious connotations, employees are free to decorate their workspaces according to their personal beliefs. 

3. Be careful about giving gifts
When it comes to gift-giving in the office, it pays to make a list and check it twice – or maybe even three times for good measure. Gifts should be appropriate, both in item and price.

"Give clients, employees and colleagues gifts in line with your organization's values and standards, and keep in mind that what you give directly reflects your judgment and professionalism," said Stephen Paskoff, CEO of workplace learning company ELI, in an interview with SungardAS through Forbes BrandVoice.

If you want to recognize employees for their good work, recognize all of them to avoid hard feelings. Do what you can, however, to make the gifts personal and heartfelt – no one wants to feel like they're receiving a cookie-cutter present. Even a handwritten thank-you note can make a big impact. 

4. Throw safe parties 
Unfortunately, the corporate holiday party can be prime breeding ground for HR problems. Help make sure everyone stays safe by reminding employees ahead of the party that the codes of behavior for the office also apply at the event, The Weinstein Firm recommends. It's also a smart idea to limit the time that employees can buy drinks, and even hold the party off-site so that professional bartenders, who can better recognize when someone has been drinking too much, can be responsible for serving the drinks.