The holidays are a time for festive songs, exchanging presents, feasts with friends and family— and the end-of-the-year crunch at work. Given the number of distractions facing employees this time of year, combined with the stress to finish the year well at work, it is no wonder that productivity can take a plunge. Rather than cracking down on employees and alienating them, or just giving the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year up as lost, there are a few tricks that employers can use to keep everyone focused and successful. Create a plan Team leaders should gather and create a plan for improving motivation throughout the holiday season. This means first looking at everything that worked well, and not so well, in the past years. Consider where problems arose. Did too many people take time off, causing backlogs and disgruntled customers? Was there too much time wasted on party planning and other holiday-inspired activities that goals were missed? Know where the business's weaknesses were and develop a plan to counteract them. For example, all staff should be coordinating their time off through a group calendar. Set a minimum number of staff members who need to be present on a given day to make sure that the company is not left shorthanded. Keep parties simple so that an excessive amount of time is not needed to plan the festivities. Develop guidelines that will keep your team moving forward without being a complete scrooge. Know when to take it easy Understand that your staff is likely pushing themselves hard both at work and at home. They are scrambling to make holiday plans and arrangements while also handling the hectic work atmosphere that always seems to arise at the end of the year. Pushing employees straight through this period will result in burned out employees by January 2, which is never a good way to start the New Year. Instead, recognize the emotional needs of your employees and give them an occasional outlet to relax. A Friday afternoon or two might be a good time for a one hour coffee break with a holiday inspired treat. Others might instead let employees leave an hour early one afternoon to beat the rush hour traffic and get more holiday planning done. These types of small tokens that do not detract too much from the day can help employees maximize the time they have available by giving them a mental break. Research has shown that taking breaks from work can actually increase productivity for the time when employees are in the office. If your business tends to have a lot of overtime during the end-of-the-year crunch, surprise employees with pizza and snacks or other little rewards to help them keep going. The key is to let employees know that you care about their stress level and appreciate them. Beware of working from home Working from home can sound tempting— like the perfect way to give staff flexibility while still achieving productivity. Unfortunately, it can be much too easy to take advantage of this arrangement during this time of year for many employees. Wrapping presents while checking email, running out 'really quickly' on errands in between calls— it is simple for the day to get away. Use telecommuting sparingly and wisely. Highly reliable, proven employees might be able to use it well occasionally, but do not feel the need to grant it to everyone who asks. Asking employees to finish certain tasks and rewarding them with leaving an hour early in the afternoon would likely accomplish more. Create holiday inspired goals and rewards to maintain focus Given the number of potential distractions surrounding employees on all sides during the holiday season, now is the perfect time to use goals and rewards to keep everyone focused through the end of the year. Make these goals and rewards holiday-inspired to add more fun. Staff can earn candy canes for small daily tasks, such as a candy cane for every five phone calls made. Larger team goals, such as accomplishing a team quota for closed sales for the first two weeks of December, can be rewarded with extra time off for holiday planning, a department holiday party over Friday lunch or similar celebration that everyone will enjoy. Create the incentives that will speak best to your employees. The end of the year always poses a challenge for businesses. Employees are struggling with their own holiday planning, people are traveling and no one feels like working. Yet customers still need to be served and the business needs to move forward. Work with the employees to create a productive, successful atmosphere this time of year and see the potential value that the holiday season can still offer.
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