What Do American Employees Really Want for the Holidays? Hint: Not a Cookie Swap

Staff Report

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Randstad US announced the findings of a recent survey exploring American workers' attitudes and preferences about the holiday season in the workplace. It revealed that, for some, the holidays truly are the most wonderful time of the year. For others, 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 percent of workers said "time off" topped their list, while 34 percent look forward to getting a bonus. Meanwhile, familiar workplace holiday traditions like cookie swaps (11 percent) and gift exchanges (nine percent) were lower priority. But "holiday spirit in the workplace" (54 percent) and "happier/more generous co-workers" (41 percent) ranked high, and nearly 75 percent 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.

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

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

  • 62 percent of respondents agree they feel obligated to attend their employer's holiday party, but younger employees feel more pressure to attend (74 percent of 18-24-year-olds and 69 percent of 25-34-year-olds compared with 51 percent of 65+ year-olds).

  • 77 percent 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 percent of 18-24-year-olds and 25-34-year-olds agree their companies should participate in holiday charitable endeavors, compared to just 31 percent of 50-64-year-olds.

    • 28 percent of respondents say they feel obligated to buy their boss a holiday gift, while 61 percent say they do not give out holiday gifts in the workplace.

    • Half of respondents (50 percent) admit to holiday shopping online while on the clock, but it's more prevalent among younger workers (65 percent of 18-24-year-olds compared with 42 percent of 50-64-year-olds).

    • 34 percent of employees say their company provides a year-end bonus to all employees.

time off.
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 percent of employees plan to take vacation during the holiday season, but 52 percent say their company gives no additional time off around the holidays.

  • 63 percent of workers say they still check email when on vacation and 31 percent say they check in with the office because they feel it makes them appear more diligent.

  • 28 percent 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.