Managing employees during the winter holidays can be difficult. You want your team to rest after a long year of hard work but have a hard time juggling dozens of time off requests. You want to celebrate your team’s accomplishments but also need your staff to stay focused and hit their deadlines. It’s a delicate balancing act that stresses many leaders.
High productivity, no stress
The winter holidays season doesn’t have to be stressful for you just because you’re in a leadership position. You might even be able to enjoy some time off yourself for holiday events or a warm beach getaway. Use this checklist to keep productivity high and anxiety levels low.
1. Ask for time-off requests early
Plan effectively by setting a deadline for holiday time-off requests, ensuring early identification of absent employees. This enables you to proactively adjust client deadlines, either moving them ahead of the holidays or postponing them if needed due to staffing constraints.
In many offices, most of the staff can take off and it won’t affect the company. However, if you have a customer service team, for example, that department will need to be staffed, regardless of the holiday. If this is the case for your company, develop a policy for time-off approval. A few options include:
- First come, first served – The earliest employees who ask for time off get approval.
- Seniority – People who have been at the company the longest get time off approved first.
- Alternating schedules – An employee who works on Christmas this year won’t work on Christmas next year. Or, if an employee works on Christmas Eve, they won’t have to work on New Year’s Eve.
Whichever policies you choose, make sure they’re clearly communicated. That will ensure there are no issues when someone doesn’t get the time-off they wanted. Such policies need to be enforced across the board to keep it fair for everyone.
2. Implement holiday remote work policies
If you currently have a hybrid workplace where employees come in for a few days each week, review and temporarily update your policies ahead of the holiday season. For example, you could allow employees to be fully remote the week between Christmas and New Year’s. It will better accommodate people who are traveling. This might incentivize a few employees to clock in during that week when they would otherwise use paid time-off.
Share these policies when you send out holiday time-off requests. This way, your employees have a clear understanding of their options.
3. Set End-of-Year goals for your teams
Employees often view December as reaching a finish line after a long year. You can tap into this mentality to keep productivity high throughout the month.
Create a list of projects and tasks that you want to wrap up by the end of the year. These could be external (client obligations) and internal, based on team infrastructure. Work with your employees to review these projects. Set milestones and deadlines to get them accomplished before the end of the year. This process allows your team to focus on the final push to end the year on a strong note. Meanwhile, they will also feel like a team fully supported by leadership.
4. Leave evergreen projects for your holiday staff
Most offices are quiet in the last few weeks of the year. With less to do, you can shift the focus to light projects and tasks that don’t get done during the rest of the year. This could include asking employees to digitally declutter their computers or sort through messy storage closets.
Digital housekeeping and organization can help your team operate better. Yet it often gets pushed to the side. Each team member who works during the holiday quiet period can take on a few of these tasks. They will make them feel more energized and set themselves and their teams up for success in the new year.
5. Don’t forget holiday gifts or bonuses
For employers, holiday gifts are a nice way to thank team members for their hard work. However, many employees view these gifts as indicators of their workplace culture. According to a 2022 survey, 50 percent of workers say companies should always give holiday gifts. Meanwhile, 20 percent of workers say they will likely quit in the coming year if their bonus falls short of expectations.
Employees are hurt when they hear that a company earned record profits, but that holiday bonuses or gifts have been cut. Consider what gifts you gave out last year and try to match or exceed them this year.
6. Don’t make your holiday party mandatory
If your office has a holiday party, do not require your employees to attend just to boost your numbers. You can ask that they RSVP so you have an accurate headcount, but no one wants to feel forced to attend a workplace social gathering.
There are also legal wage requirements if you require employee attendance outside of normal working hours. You can protect your company and your staff by hosting an optional gathering in a safe environment.
Clear holiday policies help everybody
Developing time-off policies, remote work allowances, and end-of-year goals can help you and your staff navigate the winter holidays easily.
Your employees will know what is expected of them and you can set reasonable goals for your them. December will never be the most productive month, but you can prevent confusion and keep engagement high with clear and reasonable plans.