What Do Employees Really Want for the Holidays?

HR & Safety

A new study from Randstad US exploring American workers’ attitudes and preferences about the holidays in the workplace revealed that, for some, the holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year.
For others, however, the season is fraught with tricky questions, like “Should I give my boss a gift?” or “Just how much small talk do I have to make with Bob from accounting at the company party?”
When asked to identify what they loved most about holidays in the workplace, 70% of workers said time off topped their list, while 34% look forward to getting a bonus.
Meanwhile, familiar workplace holiday traditions like cookie swaps (11%) and gift exchanges (9%) were lower priority.
But “holiday spirit in the workplace” (54%) and “happier/more generous coworkers” (41%) ranked high, and nearly 75% of respondents said it was important to them that their companies participate in holiday philanthropic initiatives like food drives or other charitable donations.
The data suggests what workers value most about the holidays in the workplace is largely about relationships, and that opportunities to connect with colleagues and their communities are more meaningful and therefore more appreciated than structured celebrations.

Workplace Holiday Parties

The survey revealed most employees are neutral about holiday parties, but parties aren’t their holiday gift of choice.

90% of employees say they would prefer to get a bonus or extra vacation days than have a holiday party.

  • 90% of employees say they would prefer to get a bonus or extra vacation days than have a holiday party.
  • 62% of respondents agree they feel obligated to attend their employer's holiday party, but younger employees feel more pressure to attend (74% of 18–24-year-olds and 69% of 25–34-year-olds compared with 51% of workers 65 and older).
  • 77% say their company is sensitive to diversity and inclusion and considers different religious beliefs and cultures when planning holiday celebrations.

‘Tis the Season to Be Giving

Employees are big on company philanthropic initiatives, but when it comes to their colleagues, they're less likely to get in the giving spirit.

  • Younger generations are generous — 47% of 18–24-year-olds and 25–34-year-olds agree their companies should participate in holiday charitable endeavors, compared to just 31% of 50–64-year-olds.
  • 28% of respondents say they feel obligated to buy their boss a holiday gift, while 61% say they do not give out holiday gifts in the workplace.
  • Half of respondents (50%) admit to holiday shopping online while on the clock, but it's more prevalent among younger workers (65% of 18–24-year-olds compared with 42% of 50–64-year-olds).
  • 34% of employees say their company provides a year-end bonus to all employees.

Time Off for the Holidays

For most employees, the holidays mean taking time off to spend with family and friends, but the survey revealed work is still on their minds, whether they're checking email or planning their next career move.

  • 62% of employees plan to take vacation during the holiday season, but 52% say their company gives no additional time off around the holidays.
  • 63% of workers say they still check email when on vacation, and 31% say they check in with the office because they feel it makes them appear more diligent.
  • 28% admit to using paid sick days instead of their vacation time at the end of the year.
  • Nearly a third admit to job searching or exploring during the holidays since it's usually less hectic this time of year.

    Survey methodology: Research findings are based on an OmniPulse survey fielded by national polling firm Research Now on behalf of Randstad US. The survey was fielded between from Oct. 30, 2017, and Nov. 3, 2017. It included 1,232 respondents over the age of 18 and a nationally representative sample balanced on age, gender, and region. Additional findings.


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