If you Google “productivity during the holidays,” your results page will flood with a mixed bag of results ranging from “9 Strategies to Boost Employee Productivity during the Holiday Season” to “‘Tis the Season to Goof Off at Work and That’s Good for Productivity.” Is it reasonable to maintain normal standards of productivity, or should you make allowances for increased socialization and decreased output during the holidays? Opinions abound on both ends of the spectrum—but maybe the question is mistakenly polarized.
The holiday season undeniably changes the workplace atmosphere. Depending on the kind of business you operate, the end of the calendar year may usher in stress and chaos as teams rush to finish projects before January. Conversely, business may slow down as December approaches, and travel plans, Christmas shopping, and full social calendars may distract employees from their work tasks.
While the best approach to the season might appear to be proceeding with business as usual, Geoffrey James of Inc.com suggests this is a mistake. “If you push to make the holiday season into just more of the same-old-same-old [sic], you’re missing the opportunity to naturally and easily turn the workplace from a collection of individuals into an actual community, which ultimately increases productivity,” he writes.
You may not think your business can afford to accommodate everyone’s time-off requests or close for additional days. But forcing overtime, denying vacation requests, holding mandatory meetings that discourage travel, and refusing to consider flexible hours or remote work arrangements won’t inspire your team to work hard. In fact, this approach may foster resentment and lead to burnout or even resignation—and the process of replacing lost talent can cost a lot more than a couple days of PTO.
Deadlines don’t magically disappear with the advent of the season. However, embracing the spirit of the holidays and allowing for a more relaxed work environment may actually encourage employees to work more efficiently. By giving employees permission to socialize, take breaks, and decorate the workspace, you can create good cheer and boost morale. Company potlucks and holiday parties also generate camaraderie, which will improve team cohesion and increase productivity in the coming year. They’re also excellent opportunities to recognize and reward employees for their efforts and accomplishments.
A more laid-back work pace also offers both you and your employees a chance to reflect on the past year and anticipate the new one, identifying areas of improvement and setting new goals for performance and productivity.
Establish clear expectations in advance so that your team members can plan accordingly. No one wants to end up stuck in the office with a last-minute project on Christmas Eve. Visible goals and obtainable metrics will motivate employees to end the work year on a high note before enjoying time off with loved ones.
However you choose to approach the holiday season, make space for festivities and at least a little frivolity. You might need to accept a temporary dip in efficiency, but your workplace culture will benefit.