In the Trenches: Choosing Company Holidays


As someone who spends every waking minute working on building his business, the idea of taking “company holidays” seemed somewhat foreign. I just worked ... all of the time. But when I started to hire employees, I had to decide which, if any, days we would be closed and develop an official company policy. I was surprised to find that there isn’t much official guidance out there on this.

There is no rule regarding which holidays a company needs to honor. The U.S. government generally does not require businesses to grant any paid time off. However, considering that I would rather not have people quit out of frustration, I wanted to have a fair policy. 

I could have adopted all federal government holidays, but that’s a pretty long list (10 working days). I don’t know any small-business owners who honor every federal holiday. Instead, I took what I thought was a pretty standard list based on my previous experience and then tweaked it a little.

Before I started my own business, nothing annoyed me more than having to work (for my previous employer) on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The first thing I did was include that as a holiday. With date-based holidays such as July 4 and Dec. 25 that fall on a different day of the week each year, I figured I would play it by ear. Some years, I might add an extra day off, if it makes sense. As the boss, I have that flexibility, but there’s no reason to codify it and add complexity.

I thought about getting cutesy. A company I used to work for gave people their birthdays off. I decided that was silly. If someone wants his birthday off, he or she can take paid time off.

I also have a long-running joke with a friend of mine where we celebrate United Nations Day every year (which is Oct. 24, by the way). I briefly thought about giving that as a holiday, but then I realized that (a) nobody wants that day off and (b) some people might think it’s some sort of political statement in support of the U.N. I have no interest in making political statements in my business.  Here's what I settled on.

  • New Year's Day
  • Presidents Day
  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Labor Day
  • Thanksgiving Day and the day following
  • Christmas Day

So, for now, I think we have a fairly standard-looking holiday calendar with the only possible outlier being the day after Thanksgiving. I’m happy with it, but it might be something to reconsider each year, so I can make sure that it works for everyone.