The Etiquette of Decorating the Office for the Holidays

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The holiday season is here and it is time to start the annual tug of war over what is appropriate when it comes to holiday decorations in public spaces. As people spend half of their waking hours at the office, it is not surprising that people want to liven up their working environment. However, you need to know the etiquette for this.

The Differing Opinions

Problems with holiday decorations will generally arise when there are differing opinions on what is appropriate and which holidays should be celebrated. In most cases, people will adopt an all-in mentality which will mix Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah traditions based on the makeup of the office staff. In the best circumstances, this will foster camaraderie between all of the workers.

The problem is the worst case where there is a battle between personal expression and the rights of those who do not celebrate the season at all. These people will generally not want to deal with the celebration for most of their day. Generally, it will make sense for the company to have a written policy based on the safety issues and cultural makeup of customers and employees.

There are a lot of organisations, such as HL Decorating Contractors, that publish rules about the kind of displays that are acceptable and not for safety reasons. An example of this will be that all decor should be flame resistant and you should not use any lit candles. Lights should be also be rated for indoor use and the exits should not be impeded by decorations.

This can be fairly straightforward as well as simple. A harder to navigate area will be the employee who wants to listen to holiday music at their desk or hang blinking lights or have scented pine cones. All of these things may make the individual happy, but they could infringe on the other staff members in a number of ways.

Holiday Decor Policies From Around the Country

The International Facilities Management Association in 2006 took a survey of their members regarding office holiday decor policies. Around 94% of the respondents to the survey stated that their employees are permitted to decorate for the holiday season, with Christmas having the largest percentage, followed by Hanukkah and then Kwanzaa. Of these respondents, around 25% have stated that there is some problem regarding the decorations.

Around 85% of the complaints that these companies face have led to a change in policy. The primary problems reported are safety concerns, excessive decorating and damage to the facilities. There are some respondents that also stated that they hold competitions for the best display and have different categories to boost their morale.

Is There a Solution?

The major issue is the fact that you can never have everyone satisfied. For some people, more is better when it comes to holiday decor. However, there are other people who feel that there is no display level that they deem acceptable due to religious subtext.

The consensus seems to be that employees that want to decorate their personal spaces will generally do this on their own time. This could be before or after work, during a lunch break and this is done to not impose on their neighbours. Any truly religious symbols like the nativity scene should be kept unobtrusive and small. However, there are other decorations such as garlands are more generally appropriate because they are not religious and more commercial.

The decorating of public spaces in the office should be kept in line with the business. An example of this will be a toy company having more exuberant displays than an insurance company which will be more conservative. The decorating rules should be in keeping with work at hand and the level of customer interaction. It is important to remember that work is work and while decorating can be fun, it should never interfere with the work that you are doing.