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恭喜發財! JEDI Visionaries, Here’s How You Can Respect the Lunar New Year

Even if you don't celebrate yourself, your employees will appreciate you making their celebrations possible
Photo of traditional lunar new year decorations, red envelopes, flowers and oranges, with various new year greetings written in Chinese.
Traditional lunar new year greetings in Chinese

Friends, if you care about diversity, equity and inclusion, even if you don’t celebrate the Lunar New Year yourself, there’s lots you can do to make celebration possible for us.

How? Try doing these:

Provide a PAID Day Off

Yes, even on top of paid statutory holidays, which are mandated by regulation and offered to everyone. In our Western capitalist business world, this idea tends to bring up instant resistance. Be honest with yourself – what’s your immediate reaction?

“That’s effectively extra pay just because they are X ethnicity?”

“That’s not fair to me, just because I don’t celebrate this holiday I don’t get extra pay?”

“But how will we get the work done???” Sure. Yes. It’s an extra paid day. So what?

Instead of adopting a scarcity mindset of “what will I lose” (centering the business), how about an abundance mindset of “what will I gain?” Actually, “how is this better for everyone, including the company?”

In North America, February 1 is not a day to go to the beach. We’re huddled indoors (COVID permitting), trying to connect with family around the world. I spend Lunar New Year’s eve calling my relatives in Hong Kong and Australia to wish them New Year greetings, an important way to show love and respect to my elders and people I love. Imagine if your company didn’t give Christmas and Boxing Day off? That’s how important it is to have time to be with families on Lunar New Year’s Eve, Day, and week. I’ve had to accept not getting the day off my whole working life, because “that’s the policy”. Yes, employers are perfectly within their rights not to give the day off. But it’s not really helping productivity. I’m working and giving my best as I always do, but my heart and mind is on trying to get out of the office on time so I can have the big feast with my family. And then worrying about not staying out too late (tradition is to stay up very late, or all night) because I have to go to work the next day. Imagine how much more productive, grateful and happy I’d be if you gave me the day off in recognition of how personally important this was to me? From a purely business perspective, that alone has value. I share more about a real incident at work where I tried to get the day off under HR policy – and how that worked out…or didn’t – in this video explainer about Lunar New Year (starts at 08:35):

Offer Paid Flex Time Off

OK, if you really can’t stomach the idea of giving people a whole ton of “extra” paid days off – how about offering a few personal or other flex paid days (a growing trend among employers) that they can use? It’s on top of stat and vacation days, and open to anyone who needs it.

Here’s an example of a company that’s doing just that:

Exchange for Paid Days in Lieu

And if that still isn’t an option – can you let them take it as stat holiday in lieu? i.e. giving employees the option to take Lunar New Year off, and give up another paid stat holiday that they don’t need – maybe Victoria Day, or Good Friday. It’s not ideal but at least it gives flexibility and recognizes that not everyone has the same holidays.

Here’s a real life example of a progressive company that’s doing that – and the high employee goodwill it’s generating as a result:

Make it a Meeting-Free Day

And the final (and least you can do) option: keep that day clear of meetings. This action is actually key for the previous three to succeed as well. Because we’ve all experienced wanting to take vacation days, but having to cancel because there’s “too much to do”. Or we say we’ll just work a little bit in the morning to “catch up”, but next thing we know, it’s 5 pm and our family is furious.

Or we have to call in to that one meeting from the cottage, because our boss or other superior just has to have a meeting on X, or the world will fall apart. Employers, if you can’t actually provide Lunar New Year as a whole day off – can you at least keep it free of meetings, training, webinars, even social events? Yes, the employee will be working anyway. But it gives them the flexibility to work on their own timeline, and maybe take a longer lunch to eat the delicious new year’s food that’s (let’s face it) the best part of Lunar New Year (other than spending time with my family, of course. Ahem.) And by the way – this is true not only for Lunar New Year. Rosh Hashanah, Eid, Diwali, and many others – people often have to wrangle their work schedules and stress about getting off work in time to rush home for the celebrations. It would help a lot if we could work from home, and/or not worry about meetings going over time and making us late for our families. Again, think beyond your employees. Your customers, suppliers and other stakeholders may be in similar boats. So if you care about inclusivity and belonging, please – think about how you can provide the maximum benefit, choice and flexibility for the people you work with.

Share your stories and comments.

If you’re celebrating Lunar New Year this year, what festivities will you be enjoying? Are you taking the day off work (paid or unpaid?)

If you don’t celebrate it yourself, how are you respecting the people who do?

Add a comment on our Facebook page, or contact me to share your story.


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