Company Culture
Culture / / Workplace culture is heading home for the holidays

Your favorite local tech news site is taking a break from publishing for the full week of Christmas through New Year's Day. Plus, cookie swaps, PTO, work from home — here's how other local tech companies do holidays.

CadmiumCD's holiday photo. (Courtesy photo)
Let’s be real — all the preparation required ahead of taking time off of work can make taking that time feel like a chore.

How will essential tasks get accomplished in your absence? Is a coworker dumped with double work? Will the stress of forgetting to send that one email keep you up at night?

Add in the fact that Americans are generally terrible at using their paid vacation time even when they have it, plus the overall bustle of the holidays, and you have all the makings for an unpleasant few days surrounding a time that should be blissfully joyful and calming (at least, according to popular tunes about chestnuts roasting on open fires).

But it shouldn’t be that way.

Historically, we at have published as usual most days around the winter holidays, with the exception of Christmas and New Year’s days and their eves. But this year, for the first time, we’re closing the office entirely for the week of Monday, Dec. 23 — and we won’t be publishing again until Thursday, Jan. 2. Perhaps most importantly to us internally, those days won’t require use of PTO; they’re given freely.

This feels huge to me. Our small team works hard every weekday to deliver multiple news items about the local tech communities in Philadelphia, Baltimore, D.C. and Delaware. Even when we’re not in the office, we’re scanning social media for breaking news, listening to podcasts to keep up with the latest trends and attending (or hosting) community events. It can be tough to disengage, and I know that’s not at all unique to the newsroom. You’ve likely caught yourself sending work emails at 11 p.m., too. (We know we shouldn’t do this. We do it anyway.)

For me, at least, this new holiday policy means I likely won’t be opening my laptop at all over the next week or so (!!!) and that I’ll get to start planning some 2020 travel. What does this mean for you, dear reader? You can catch some of us via email on Monday the 30th (structure is [firstname] and then most of us again on the 2nd. You shouldn’t expect to see any new stories go live until then, either, or a newsletter in your inbox. We hope you’ll miss us, but we’ll see you soon.

Curious how companies of different sizes and missions think about the holidays, I emailed a set of questions to a few folks in each of’s markets, with the option to answer as many as they felt applied to them: Does your company shut down for any particular days? If not, how does your office manage days when lots of employees take PTO anyway? Is there an understanding that certain days bookending holidays are WFH? Do projects get put on hold, and is there any monetary fallout from that? When in the office, does your team hold any holiday traditions or gatherings?

Below, here’s how five companies across the Mid-Atlantic region adjust their workflows at the end of the year. Some of their answers have been lightly edited for style or clarity.


Forest Hills, Maryland-based event tech company CadmiumCD

  • The entire office is decorated with lights, trees, tinsel, candy canes and everything else you’d imagine in a winter wonderland. We also did a holiday cookie exchange this year. Everyone brought in three dozen cookies, then could swap their cookies for others.
  • After our end-of-the-year results meetings, we have a full day of celebrations. We start in the morning with a white elephant gift exchange (crazy with 75 people now, but still worth it), a group photo, and then lunch at a local or regional venue. We’ve celebrated at Longwood Gardens in PA, Maryland Golf and Country Club, and this year at 510 Johnny’s in Bel Air.
  • While our offices only close during the official holidays, many people have saved up comp time and PTO that they take the last couple weeks of December and the first week of January. Many of our clients are out for the holidays as well so it’s pretty quiet around the office. Projects definitely get put on hold, but since we cater to the events industry there is no real monetary fallout because typically there aren’t any conferences going on during the holidays.

— Marketing Manager Michael Doane

D.C.-based social impact accelerator SEED SPOT

Does your company shut down for any particular days?

The SEED SPOT team — 13 full-time team members and three to five interns at any given time — works long hours and often times on the weekend throughout the year. We run programs supporting entrepreneurs, so we know that they work after their full-time jobs and on the weekends, so our programs reflect when they need support, mentorship, and access to resources. In order to ensure the team gets time to rest, recuperate, and spend time with loved ones, we close down from roughly Dec. 23 through Jan. 3. We have been doing this since our inception!

Is there an understanding that certain days bookending holidays are WFH?

We have a remote-first team culture, we have built our team around trust, supportiveness, transparency, and getting stuff done. Several team members do travel home for the holidays before we go on “break” and this gives them the ability to miss some of the most hectic and stressful travel days of the year.

Do projects get put on hold, and is there any monetary fallout from that?

Our team really rallies together In the final days of each year that we are online to push any big projects over the finish line. The time off is such a treat for the full team that we really band together to make sure everyone gets to enjoy plenty of rest and relaxation before ramping into a busy new year. The new year reflects a time when many individuals take the plunge and start a new venture, so our programming really sees a lift and we have to all be fully on our game to support each founder!

I believe in creating a healthy work environment that practices mindfulness and respect to achieve our mission of educating, accelerating, and investing in impact-driven entrepreneurs. With a well-rested and healthy team, we are able to empower and support more entrepreneurs and do it to our fullest potential.

— CEO C’pher Gresham

Philadelphia-based health data company HealthVerity

HealthVerity’s cookie swap. (Courtesy photo)

In regards to the holidays, HealthVerity has a pretty flexible schedule. The office is technically closed on Christmas day and New Year’s Day, but a good portion of our team is taking vacation during that time. Our company, in general, has a pretty flexible schedule when it comes to time off and working from home, but late December is somewhat of an expected time since not only will a lot of the team be out, but our clients (pharma, pharma services, consultants) usually are out this time of year as well.

Besides the flex schedule, our People team organizes several events to get everyone in the holiday spirit! We had our holiday party earlier this month and this upcoming Friday will be the fourth annual cookie exchange and ugly sweater contest. I think last year a pistachio biscotti cookie won and people are out to claim the title!

— Director of Marketing Abby Stockwell

Wilmington-based workplace culture company The Fun Dept.

We are in full tilt holiday mode delivering fun and holiday cheer to offices across the region. We have always encouraged these celebrations to occur on company time rather than evenings and weekends. Brief, engaging fun activities throughout the year relieves the pressure to do something big and expensive at the holiday’s for employees.

We practice what we preach and shut down after this Friday until the New Year. I have our business phone line forwarded to my number and I respond to any web inquiries so our team gets a much deserved break. Unless you are in retail or a highly seasonal business this is the one time of year that people can afford to take time off and we believe they should. Employees who choose to work over the holidays should receive the comp time.

— Founder and partner Nick Gianoulis

D.C.-based catering startup HUNGRY

As we’re a client-centric services organization, our clients rely on us to be operating when they need us.  Also, our chef partners still want income coming in from caterings sold on our platform, so it’s important that we keep the doors open during the holidays. That said, here are some things we do:

  1. As the holidays are our busiest time of the year, we have a “post-holiday holiday party” in mid-January. January is a seasonally slower time of the year for us and so no one is burnt out on attending so many holiday parties. It makes our team party more fun and special!
  2. We have a “no-limit” vacation policy so our team is encouraged to take time off whenever they need it. The time period from Christmas to Jan. 2 is a time when most of our team is taking a break this year. It’s a great time to recharge our batteries before we kick-start 2020 with a bang. As we have redundancy in most key positions, like operations and account management/sales, team members cover for their teammates when they are on but another member of the team is off.
  3. We also provide all employees a substantial discount off any personal catering order, so they can have one of our top chefs help them out with a holiday meal for their family if they just aren’t in the mood for cooking.

— PR rep Andrea Riggs


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