Thanksgiving in the Workplace

In the United States, Thanksgiving is not just another day off. For many, it’s their most anticipated holiday; the time of year they head home to connect with family and friends, wherever home may be.

Time Off and Peak Travel

Historically, many companies have given employees a “four day weekend” for Thanksgiving, with both the Thursday and Friday being paid days off. This practice is generally reflected in the public and institutional sectors as well. Some employees further extend this extra-long weekend with vacation entitlements (and the occasional convenient sick day).

Apparently, most employees use this popular break to travel, largely within the US. According to US Bureau of Transportation statistics, long distance trips (over 50 miles) within the US increase by 54% over the six day thanksgiving travel period, compared to a 23% increase over Christmas/New Year. And Airlines for America projects that 25 Million Passengers will travel on U.S airlines during the 2013 Thanksgiving Season. Millions of people will travel thousands of miles; grateful for the chance to spend time with family, eat lots of great food, and maybe watch some football.

Having said that, with the economic turmoil of recent years still echoing around the world, many employees will be working through Thanksgiving this year as their employers, like Walmart, decide to extend shopping hours through Thanksgiving, to squeeze as much as possible out of their primary retail window. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Bloomberg BNS, 36% of employers will require at least some of their workers to work on Thanksgiving Day this year.

Thanksgiving in the Workplace

Whether your workplace anticipates business as usual, a complete shut-down, or a skeleton staff to maintain the bare essentials, Thanksgiving is a good time of year take stock (and we don’t mean inventory!).

What do you do throughout the year to recognize and appreciate the value that everyone in your organization brings to the workplace every day? Research shows, companies that say “thank you” more often, significantly outperform those who don’t recognize employee contributions. And there is ample evidence that gratitude itself is just as beneficial to the person who says thank you as it is to the person being appreciated. In essence, gratitude improves your health and wellbeing!

Before the “six day Thanksgiving travel period” begins, why not bring your team together to share an event of thanksgiving and ratchet up the gratitude meter in your workplace. In keeping with the tradition of food associated with this celebration, perhaps you could take your team out for an impromptu lunch—or pull together a potluck in the lunchroom if cost is a factor.

Gathering to share food is a universal experience that forges and sustains social bonds. Most events in the workplace have a work-related purpose. Maybe it’s time for that to change. In the spirit of recognition, gratitude and simple appreciation, why not give your people an opportunity to sit, eat, and tell stories about the best and the worst of the past year in a safe, non-judgemental environment.

Considering the fact that most full time employees spend a lot more time at work with their colleagues than they do with their families, it’s not unreasonable to suggest that Thanksgiving could be a good opportunity to celebrate with workplace families too—especially if your workplace is one of those that expects employees to work through Thanksgiving.

Every day is a good day to appreciate the people you work with. Thanksgiving just provides us with a reminder that it’s far too easy to let the days fly without acknowledging valued contributions. Slow down, take a seat at the table, break bread with your colleagues and be thankful.


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