December can be one of the most challenging months of the working year, and keeping employees engaged and focused on their work can be tricky. According to a recent study, two-thirds of employees will use paid time to do their online Christmas shopping at their desks, meaning that businesses could stand to lose hundreds of hours in productivity. There often ends up being fewer man hours to get the same volume of work accomplished, and for some, end-of-year targets need to be met and budgets and planning for the year ahead finalised. Juggling work with personal family commitments can create a number of pressures and distractions, and so it’s no wonder that during the festive season, employee morale and motivation can dip.
Knowing how to keep employees on track with their goals during the Christmas period can sometimes be a struggle, and so we’ve put together a few of our top tips to help your teams remain merry and productive!
1. Schedule work against time available
It can be extremely tempting to bury your head in the sand at this time of year, and avoid working out how much actual time you have to accomplish targets and deadlines. A quick flick through your diary will most likely show that there’s not nearly as much time as you hoped there was! It can often be a helpful wake-up call to begin December by balancing workload against man hours, subtracting booked holidays and events, to properly calculate what capability your team has for the month. Bear in mind that employees will be less inclined to work late or overtime during December owing to personal commitments and social engagements, and so it’s important to be realistic. Once tasks and deadlines have been evenly distributed, employees will have a clear understanding of their expected output.
2. Consider flexible working over the festive period
If it isn’t already company policy, it could be worth introducing flexible working for December where individuals might choose to come in very early one day, for example, so that they can leave earlier for some Christmas shopping, or to see their child’s nativity. Alternatively, trustworthy employees could be given the opportunity to work from home on particular days, making it easier for them to manage their work and personal commitments. Granting employees this increased sense of freedom and autonomy can really help to boost morale.
Another option might be to offer staff an extended lunch break on Fridays leading up to Christmas, providing they are on schedule with their work, so that they can escape the weekend shopping madness. Of if it can be justified financially, closing the office early one day would be a great way to incentivise staff and help keep them motivated.
3. Introduce some friendly competition
Energy levels often begin to flag in December, as we near the end of the year and our minds and bodies look forward to a well-earned rest. Sometimes individuals need a bit of a push and some incentive to keep going, and introducing a bit of friendly competition between teams, for example, can be a low-cost and fun way to achieve this. There could be a prize for the hardest working team, or the team to receive the best client feedback, or the team who hits their targets first. The prizes don’t need to be big: a round of drinks in the pub after work, a tray of doughnuts or a couple of bottles of bubbly to share, would easily be enough.
4. Create a festive office vibe
While Christmas shouldn’t be an excuse for office bedlam, some simple efforts can go a long way towards helping staff feel festive and in good spirits. A relaxed dress code could be introduced for December, along with a competition for the best Christmas jumper! Christmas tunes could be played on a Friday afternoon, ending with karaoke, some nibbles and a glass of wine. Office bingo or a Christmas quiz, and daily advent treats could also prove popular. A secret Santa is a fun thing to organise as it gets closer to Christmas. All of these efforts will show employees that you care about their well being and that you appreciate their loyalty during the festive period particularly.
5. Host a pop-up Christmas shopping event
One of the hardest things about being office-bound this time of year is the lack of opportunity to ‘pop’ to the shops for some festive shopping. Discourage employees from spending work hours shopping online by organising a pop-up Christmas shopping event within the office one afternoon, inviting local independent sellers to come in and showcase their wares. Mulled wine and warm mince pies could be on offer, and not only will it be fun and a welcome break from routine, it might also be a great opportunity for staff to pick up some unique gifts for their loved ones, which they will be thankful for.
6. Give something back
Christmas presents the perfect opportunity to give something back as a company, and it can be lovely to get staff onboard with this. Research a local charity within your community that is organising gifts or food hampers for those less fortunate, and invite members of staff to participate by donating food items, warm clothing or a toy. Often companies can nominate themselves to be collection points for such charities too. Organising an evening of carol signing to raise money for charity can also be a great way to build bonds between team members.
At this time of year, positivity and gratitude are essential ingredients for helping staff remain motivated and enthused. There is plenty of research to show that employees who feel appreciated work harder and are more productive. Saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t need to cost a penny, but it can make all the difference. Work needs to be done, but this time of year, the most successful companies will be those that make their employees’ lives easier and less stressful.