Holiday Time Off

Managing Productivity without Being a Scrooge

Known as the most wonderful time of the year, the holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is filled with social gatherings, gift exchanges and trips to visit relatives. However, without proper planning, the holidays can quickly become the least productive time of year in the workplace.

According to CareerBuilder’s 2013 annual Cyber Monday survey, more than half of workers planned to shop online for holiday purchases during office hours. As employees try to meet work and personal deadlines during what can be the busiest season of the year, employers must walk a fine line to keep employees engaged and focused on the last quarter of the year, while also maintaining employee morale.

To help avoid a loss in productivity without becoming a scrooge, employers may consider taking the following steps:

1. Set Expectations and Communicate Policies Early

In order for businesses to end the year on a high note in the midst of the busy holiday season, management should clearly communicate expectations and policies regarding time off. In the absence of a firm policy, employees may request time off on the same days, which could lead to uncomfortable conversations or hurt feelings if some employees have to miss out on family holiday plans because not all requests can be accommodated.

To help avoid this issue, distribute written policies to every employee well in advance of the holiday season, which should include any blackout dates related to projects on deadline and proper protocol to request paid time off. In addition, the company should announce any dates when the office will be closed for business so employees can plan their schedules accordingly.

2. Initiate Incentive-Based Contests to Help Employees Stay Focused

Deadlines need to be met, but making time for a little holiday cheer in the workplace can go a long way toward keeping employees engaged and boosting office morale. Create a friendly office competition that encourages teamwork and productivity. The competition could be designed to help drive completion of internal projects which may get sidelined, for example, “First Team to Submit a 2015 Plan,” or to deliver an end-of-year sales push with a “Seasonal Sales Countdown.” Set weekly goals and celebrate when goals are met. For example, reward employees with additional holiday paid time off, a work-from-home day or a gift card to a local restaurant.

3. Encourage Office Downtime

Some workers do succumb to the distractions of the season by holiday shopping online or planning a winter vacation instead of focusing on the tasks at hand. Instead of ignoring the fact that employees’ minds may be focused on holiday or personal business, encourage group breaks when online shopping is permitted. Providing team members with the opportunity to accomplish personal tasks during authorized breaks will help them to stay on task during the workday and lift overall morale. Planning a simple, seasonal activity, such as a voluntary gift or cookie exchange during regular office hours may also help foster goodwill and team spirit. Bringing the holidays into the workplace can help employees feel more engaged overall, leading to greater focus on job responsibilities.

4. Allow Flexibility with Work Schedules

Many businesses slow down during the last week of the year. If feasible, companies may consider closing that week since it is likely that many clients are planning to either take time off or wind down themselves. Of course, this is not true for every industry so if closing is not an option, businesses can offer flexibility by creating a shorter work week schedule during the holidays or allowing employees to telecommute on certain days. Employers that need staff to work may allot more vacation at other times or offer comp days to those who work on holidays.

5. Communicate Top Priorities and Determine What Can Wait

The end of the year can be a crucial time for businesses to complete pending projects and plan for the following year. To keep everyone focused on deliverables, management should share the necessary deadlines that need to be met. Conversely, projects and tasks that are not urgent should be evaluated and, if needed, put on hold until the following year. Making a timeline of key priorities will help employees stay focused on year-end goals and ensure nothing falls through the cracks.




Brady Sweet (left) is a district manager and Jeff Holder (right)  is a Certified Business Performance Advisor for Insperity’s Orlando office. For more information, call (800) 465-3800 or visit



This article appears in the December 2014 issue of i4 Business.
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i4 Business

i4 Business magazine has become one of the most trusted voices for and about the Central Florida business community. Each month through our print and digital platforms, we provide access to meet, to learn from and to learn about some of the incredible entrepreneurs and business leaders who are shaping our region.

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