No one wants to be a scrooge during the holidays, but bosses also want employees that stay engaged and productive during this festive time of year. While you don’t want your employees shopping online the entire workday or slipping out for hours on end to run holiday errands, employers have to give their workers a little leeway and recognize the holidays in order for them to stay productive.
“It is possible to have some fun and holiday spirit while still keeping a focus on the work everyone needs to get done — especially in that there is typically fewer work days in December to get a full month’s work in,” says Bob Nelson, president of Nelson Motivation and author of 1501 Ways to Reward Employees. “The most powerful concepts don’t cost much if any money.”
Experts agree that it’s not a good idea to pretend the holidays don’t exist in the office in hopes that everyone will stay focused on work. Ignoring the festive season will not only breed resentment but will likely result in people focusing on the holidays for days instead of only at the office party. “The top motivator is communications,” says Nelson. Lay out the goals for the end of the year and at the same time let the employees know what you have planned to celebrate the holiday season, he says.
According to Nelson companies should use this time of year to reward employees in creative ways that will pay the employer back in goodwill and appreciation long after the holidays are over. Some of those goodwill-building rewards could include giving employees personalized notes reflecting on the past year and the victories he or she had; having staff either in person or via notes provide feedback as to what they like about their co-workers; giving each employee some cash and sending them out with another staff member to go shopping for themselves and challenging everyone to do one thing each day through the holidays to make someone else’s life a bit easier. That not only injects a little holiday fun into the workday, but also presents an opportunity for some team building among workers, says Nelson.
Employees focus may wane during the holidays, but the end of the year is not the time to start micro managing or playing warden to employees’ every move. “Command and control is not effective in today’s workplace,” says Shirley Engelmeier, CEO and founder of InclusionInc. If employees are productive and they spend a few minutes a day doing some online holiday shopping, Engelmeier says the boss shouldn’t reprimand them but rather let them be. According Engelmeier if people slack during the holidays it’s probably because they don’t feel ownership to the organization the rest of year.
Although the end of a year is a busy time for technology staffing company TxMQ, President and Chief Executive Chuck Fried, does the complete opposite of micro managing. “If you’re not getting it done it’s going to be apparent,” says Fried. “As long as they are getting it done it doesn’t matter what they are doing.” In addition to giving employees freedom during the holidays he makes sure to celebrate with a couple of company hosted happy hours, a holiday party, and an in-office event with employees and spouses. On top of all that employees all get end of the year gifts each year and the company will match any donations employees make to charities. “It helps morale,” says Fried of the holiday gestures.
One of the biggest issues for employers during the holidays is handling all the requests for time off. If too many people take time off that could hurt productivity and thus business. If no one is allowed to take off, it could result in resentment, which could also impact how much work gets done. That’s why it’s important for supervisors to communicate up front with employees about time off during the holidays, blackout periods and to get their thoughts on ways to get the work done and allow for flex time. “For us it’s as simple as listening to what people say and working with them,” says Engelmeier. “We make sure what needs to be handled actually gets handled during that time.”