Top reasons why your business should participate in Harmony Week

Beginning 20 March, Harmony Week is a time to celebrate and recognise our diversity by bringing people together.
Top reasons why your business should participate in Harmony Week

Beginning 20 March, Harmony Week is a time to celebrate and recognise our diversity by bringing together people from all backgrounds and promoting inclusiveness, respect, and a sense of belonging for everyone – particularly on 21 March which is Harmony Day – a government-declared day which coincides with the United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

Australia has one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world, and with more than 60 per cent of Australians born overseas it’s easy to see why. This translates into our workforce, and as an employer, you’re responsible for the physical and mental well-being of your staff while they’re at work. This obligation means that it’s up to you as a business owner or manager to promote and support cultural differences in the workplace.

Here are some stimulating ideas about turning Harmony Week into an occasion to get your staff to celebrate, bond, and promote each other’s differences.

How to promote the values of Harmony Day on 21 March

From dress and religious practices to customs and family traditions, businesses must be aware of the different cultural needs of staff and ensure these needs can be accommodated where possible. When looking to support the cultural needs that exist in your workplace, you may need to take the following into account:

  • Do your employees need to wear a particular cultural dress? Do they feel comfortable requesting your permission to wear this attire at work? Is it a safety hazard if they wear this to work, if yes, have you explained that to them?
  • Do your employees need certain times off to pray or perform a specific ritual? Do they feel comfortable in requesting your permission to do so? This includes religious observances like Ramadan which commence this year on the evening of Friday 23 March through to Friday 21 April.
  • Do your employees need somewhere to prepare their food in a particular way as required by their religion?
  • Do your employees have family responsibilities because of their cultural differences? Do these family responsibilities conflict with work? Can you offer increased flexibility to assist employees in managing them?
  • Eye contact, handshakes, and any other physical contact can mean different things in different cultures. Are you aware of your employees and their cultural differences so you can ensure a workplace free from possible conflict or accidental insults?

Why your business should create a harmonious working environment

Recognising and embracing diversity in the workplace will not only ensure your staff know that they’re valued members of your team, but it’s also a great way to cultivate a harmonious culture, improve employee engagement, and increase overall productivity. So how can your business support the needs of employees who participate in and acknowledge significant cultural events? Below are our tips:

  1. Training: sharing the importance of cultural diversity and differences through training opportunities can be a great way to ensure all staff have the resources available to learn and understand the differences that exist within their colleagues.
  2. Listening: lean upon and use the skills and knowledge of staff to share cultural differences, whether it’s through events celebrating key holidays or publications like newsletters explaining their significance.
  3. Promoting: Send an email to staff, put posters up, leave leaflets on the break room table – consider taking every opportunity to promote cultural celebrations which could be important to your staff – and can make staff feel so welcomed and catered-for that they stick with the business for years longer than they would otherwise. You might find that certain holidays are observed by a large group of colleagues that you can celebrate as a whole business.
  4. Understanding and flexibility: supporting the needs of your employees by approving requests for leave or embracing customs that bring your team together will help to promote awareness and inclusion. Agreeing to flexible working arrangements such as a change to hours, working patterns, or locations of work to accommodate the needs of employees.
  5. Protecting: anti-discrimination laws protect employees from a wide range of actions including religious and cultural discrimination. Businesses should make every reasonable accommodation for employees who wish to fulfil their cultural obligations. But we don’t expect you to know everything about every culture – simply pick up the phone and ring HR Assured for advice when you want to do the right thing, but you’re unsure which questions to sensitively ask.
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If any of this information has raised any questions about promoting and supporting cultural diversity within your workplace or you have another workplace matter, please reach out to our experienced workplace relations experts via our 24/7 HR Advice Line.

About our author

Anthony El Salim is a Workplace Relations Advisor at Citation HR. He assists clients with a range of employment relations and compliance matters via the 27/7 HR Advice Line. He is currently studying for a Juris Doctor.

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