Building Connections: Navigating Inclusion and Belonging as the Year Concludes

by Kendall Johnson, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Analyst, Department of Human Resources

Autumn leaves, heavier jackets for the chilly Virginia breeze, and shorter days signal the final wrap-up of the year. It is also historically and widely known as a time for gatherings and observances. As we gear up for celebrations and glad tidings in the workplace, consider that not every employee gathers and celebrates for the same reason or even at all. Navigating this time of the year in the workplace can be the perfect opportunity to practice courageous curiosity in the efforts to embrace experiences, traditions, and customs apart from your own. This may look different for everyone. To help you out, here are a few ways to practice inclusion as we wrap up the year:


Be mindful and considerate. Around this time of year, we tend to see more celebrations of all sorts with delicious food, beautiful decorations, well wishes, and additional opportunities to socialize with other employees. As you plan and strategize, consider those with dietary restrictions when serving food. Also, look for ways to ensure decorations for common spaces are inclusive for everyone. Be aware of the language you are using to wish your coworkers a happy and enjoyable time. 


Invite opportunities for learning through connection. The best way to be inclusive with the people in your workplace is to inquire with respect. Avoid assumptions about how people in your workplace enjoy the season by identifying creative ways for everyone to have the chance to share and connect on similarities and learn more about differences. To assist you as you inquire with respect, here is a resource from the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities on asking effective questions. 


Recognize other celebrations and observances outside of the “traditional” holidays. While “traditional” holidays can still be celebrated, identify other celebrations around the same time of the year to be included as well. An extensive list of holidays, heritages, and celebrations can be found here. Depending on the diverse perspectives in your workplace, another option is to focus on themes instead of holidays. Other general themes may include acts of kindness, employee appreciation, the end of the year, giving back, and community recognition. These are essential ways to foster an atmosphere of inclusion and belonging.


It’s important to understand that everyone may not want to participate in holiday celebrations. Some may find this time of year challenging, such as introverted or grieving employees or those affiliated with certain beliefs. All employees should be welcomed and invited but not required to attend activities.

Navigating the workplace at the end of the year presents great opportunities to learn more about the people you work with daily. These tips are not just for the end of the year but can be used year-round. As Henrico employees, we want to take actionable steps to create an atmosphere where everyone feels included and has a sense of belonging while incorporating the inclusion element of the Henrico Capability Model


If you have ideas for inclusive ways that Henrico can highlight different holidays and cultures, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Human Resources’ DEI Division at [email protected].