The first day of Chinese New Year (also known as Lunar New Year) is finally here again – ironically it’s only two days after Valentine’s Day this year. For those who celebrate this auspicious occasion, preparations at home would have already kicked off weeks ago. However, there’s nothing stopping us from also extending some of the fun to our workplace as well.
According to Randstad employment market analyst, Steve Shephered, Chinese New Year is a great occasion to embrace cultural diversity in the office by bringing together people of different cultures to celebrate unity and prosperity.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Chinese traditions and how to best celebrate this festival in a multi-cultural environment, here are our top 5 picks for initiatives that can be easily organised and enjoyed by employees from all backgrounds!
1. Toss Some Yee Sang (‘Prosperity Salad’)
One of the activities that many look forward to during the Chinese New Year season is a good toss of the Yee Sang – a mandatory Chinese activity during CNY that involves mixing and tossing of various ingredients and shouting prosperity phrases for auspiciousness.
It is believed that the higher the Yee Sang is tossed into the air, the greater the prosperity and the chance of one’s wishes being fulfilled. Regardless of whether everyone believes in this, it is still a fun and unique activity that is commonly enjoyed by many companies throughout Malaysia and Singapore. It is also a great employee engagement initiative for colleagues to come together and reconnect in a less formal setting.
2. Organise a Pot-Luck Lunch (with Themed Dress Codes)
The CNY celebration will not be complete without a get-together reunion meal – if not the whole company then at least the entire department or project team (depending on how big is the workforce). The CNY meal is extremely symbolic and signifies the end of all negativities from the previous year while welcoming happiness, joy, and wealth in the year ahead.
Although the CNY reunion meal traditionally takes place at home with family members, it can also be adopted in the office as well. Instead of organizing the reunion meal outside at a restaurant, an alternative can be to organise a pot-luck style meal over lunch where every employee can contribute one dish to the table. This is a great way to boost staff engagement by encouraging more interaction between team members (Tip: You might want to get someone to plan a list of food and coordinate with the employees on who brings what to ensure a good diversity in the dishes).
While you’re at it, don’t forget to encourage and remind everyone to dress in their respective traditional costumes!
3. Brighten the Office with Auspicious CNY Decorations and Lion Dance
One way to fully immerse in the spirit of the Lunar New Year is to decorate your office with traditional CNY decorations such as red lanterns, zodiac signs (Tip: This is the year of the Dog), Mandarin oranges, and flowers. All of these are traditionally believed to drive away bad luck. While this responsibility usually falls to the HR department or office manager, there is no harm for us (as employees) to proactively get involved to spruce up the office environment, particularly at our own desk area.
Another traditional initiative, which is gradually becoming more common in Malaysia and Singapore, is to organise Lion Dance performances, which is thought to be a great way to usher good luck and fortune into the company and to those who watch it.
4. Schedule a Workplace Spring Cleaning (both physical and digital space)
The Lunar New Year is the perfect time to encourage everyone in your office (including yourself) to allocate time to do some spring cleaning and discard any old unwanted documents or materials (Tip: Remember to dispose unwanted confidential documents using a paper shredder and NOT directly into the bin). While most people are busy cleaning their homes, it is also important to remember that we spend on average 50 hours per week in the office, which is a significant portion of our weekday lives! Thus it will only benefit us when we keep our work environment clean and well-organised.
And while you’re at it, don’t just stop at the physical clutter – remember to also dispose your digital junk! It is definitely worthwhile to spend some time to declutter your digital workspace with activities such as organising your work folders and documents, performing a proper backup – both cloud and offline, clearing your mailbox, and settling any back-log tasks that may require your attention. Not only will this indirectly improve your overall work performance, but will also enable you to work with better clarity and reduced stress levels.
5. Carry Out Gift Exchanges: Mandarin Oranges and CNY Cookies
Asian cultures are filled with symbolism and every festive treat exists for a reason. Mandarin oranges, pronounced as “Song Kam” in Cantonese which directly translates to “giving gold”, is commonly believed to signify wishing prosperity and wealth upon the recipient. It is therefore seen as a good gesture to give oranges to your colleagues and clients, particularly those of Chinese ethnicity who are celebrating this festival.
Being Malaysian and Singaporeans, we love our good food and Chinese New Year is just another great occasion (and excuse) for us to indulge in some festive cookies. So don’t be shy to bring your home-baked pineapple tarts and CNY cookies to share with your peers at work!
Find out more on the meaning of eating pineapple tarts and other Chinese New Year treats here.