The holiday season is also a season of vacations and time off. In fact, almost all (97 percent) of American workers expect to have Thanksgiving and Christmas off. New Year’s Day and Eve, Christmas Eve, and Black Friday are also popular days to close offices. During this time, many people use their vacation days and take a little extra time for themselves. As a result, your office goes quiet and so does your holiday communication.
Rule of thumb for holiday communication
The holiday season can be stressful for some managers who need to tie up loose ends and manage staff during these days. With so many people coming and going, however, holiday communication can be challenging.
Fortunately, you can set yourself up for success with these five best practices.
1. Be clear about your holiday time off policies
Your employees started thinking about the holiday season in October. Sometimes, even earlier if they needed to save money and book flights. Your staff needs to know when the office is open, who can ask off, and what is expected of them in the days leading up to their vacation days. The sooner you provide answers to these questions, the fewer one-off inquiries you will get.
The team at Workable created a template you can use when drafting holiday policies. It includes information on deadlines to request off, compensation for working holidays, and fairly handling requests. Some companies can get away with a skeleton staff of a few people. Other businesses need to keep a certain number of team members clocked in.
If you have to deny time off requests because you need staff, make sure you have a fair policy for deciding who gets to spend the holidays with their friends and family.
2. Encourage team members to disconnect from the office
Reducing your communication can actually improve your collaboration and productivity efforts in the long run. If an employee has the week between Christmas and New Year’s off, but their coworkers continue to email them, send chat messages, and include them in conversations, that employee is never able to truly disconnect and relax.
Half of American employees say they work at least one day while on vacation. A third of employees say they are expected to answer phone calls and texts. A quarter of employees say they actually don’t feel rejuvenated after their time off. With employees expected to work and be on-call, it’s no wonder that 58 percent of Americans say their job is their biggest source of stress in life.
Part of your time off policy should include expectations for employees to communicate (or not communicate) while on vacation. Encourage your team members to step away from the office, so they can return well-rested and ready to work. This will do more for your overall productivity than harassing workers on vacation ever will.
3. Set deadlines for clients before and after the holidays
Start talking with your clients early on to decide which projects or milestones need to be wrapped up before the year-end and while deadlines should get moved into February. One effective way to set deadlines is to choose an end-of-year date before Christmas.
Consider setting the last day for client work as December 16 or December 22. This way you won’t have to bring in staff members over the holidays because you promised a client that their work would be done by December 30. Use the two-week period at the end of the year to wrap up internal projects and to prepare for the year ahead.
Setting your project deadlines before the actual holidays can help your client relations as well. Your clients want time off. They don’t want to hear from you on Christmas Eve. Let them relax on the holidays knowing your part of any projects is wrapped up or on track for January.
4. Update your office closure information – everywhere
Choose a staff member who can clearly communicate with everyone that your office will be closed. Making this information clear to your employees through your team communication platform will only benefit everybody!
What’s more, you should also:
- Email clients
- Update your Google listings
- Post on social media
- Display your office’s information on your website
You can even opt for old-school communication and tape a message on your office doors.
Don’t underestimate the power of people to miss messages. It is better to over-communicate an office closure instead of frustrating customers who aren’t sure if you are open or not.
5. Prepare employees for changes in the new year
While most of this advice focuses on holiday breaks and festive closures, you also need to prepare your employees for any changes in January. Many companies debut new policies in the new year. Try to take a three-prong approach to these communications:
- Introduce new policies well before the holiday season. This kicks off a period for employees to ask questions and bring up concerns.
- Remind employees of these policies as the end of the year approaches.
- Celebrate the policy change at the start of the year.
Even if an employee is aware of a new policy at the end of December, they might forget about it during their time off. A gentle reminder in early January can help them remember any important changes in the workplace.
Employees will follow your example
Your actions can determine whether employees feel safe taking time off and disconnecting from the workplace.
Begin by following these clear holiday communication best practices. You’ll create a healthy environment for you and your team to enjoy the holiday break without worrying about clients, deadlines, and other projects.