Keeping Employees Productive Throughout the Holiday Season


Everyone—or almost everyone—loves the holiday season that starts with Thanksgiving and ends on New Year’s Day. However, the need to maintain employee productivity from late November (or even a few days before) through January 1 can make the holidays stressful for businesses. The good news: It doesn’t have to be that way.

Follow some — or all — of these tips to keep staff productive throughout the winter holiday period.

Keeping Employees Productive Throughout the Holiday Season


Embrace the Season

Failing to acknowledge that it’s the holiday season impedes productivity. Savvy business operators show employees that they understand this. Decorate, or encourage employees to decorate, the workspace; host a socially distant or virtual holiday lunch or happy hour (for virtual, if possible, send something to employees’ homes that everyone can enjoy together online). Businesses can even offer each staff member an afternoon off for holiday shopping during the workday, on a rotating basis.

Make it Easier for Employees to Request Time Off—and More Attractive to Fill-In for Others

More than half (51%) of employees queried for a survey by human resources consulting firm West Monroe Partners said they are “uncomfortable” approaching their manager about taking off time during the holidays. This sentiment was found to be particularly prevalent among individuals who work in the banking sector, with 64% of employees noting such discomfort. And the more uncomfortable employees feel about asking for time off during the holidays, the lower their morale and the less productive they will be.

For this reason, announce well before the holidays that all requests for time off will be considered and that efforts will be made to accommodate everyone, even if some compromise on employees’ part will be needed. One important caveat to remember: Many staff members who have children plan their vacations around their kids’ school calendar months (and sometimes years) in advance. They may also need time off for schools’ Thanksgiving and Christmas programs. Other individuals’ schedules are more flexible. To support productivity, provide extra financial compensation, like time-and-a-half for hourly employees, to individuals who fill in for others on holidays or take extra shifts to allow colleagues to fulfill their holiday obligations.

Allow for WFH (Work from Home) Days or Other Flexible Arrangements

According to West Monroe Partners, businesses that have resumed operating from the office (even in hybrid mode) should allow some flexibility in scheduling during the holidays. This includes permitting remote work so employees can more easily use breaks to prep for the holidays. Contrary to what some managers and business owners may assume, such a strategy does little to interfere with employee productivity. In fact, of individuals who participated in West Monroe Partners’ survey, 91 percent said they are just as productive working remotely from home as they are when working in the office.

In cases where remote work will not work, employees can be given opportunities to come in early and leave early, or come in late and stay late, to handle holiday chores and preparations. But no matter which options are available to employees, plan ahead of time so that the business is adequately staffed at all times.

Motivate, Motivate, Motivate!

Most employees like the idea of reaching goals. Offering staff year-end bonuses for hitting their targets should motivate to remain productive and finish out the year on a high note. One caveat: Keep the goals realistic and tangible and ask employees whether they think the goals can be accomplished.

Pitch In – Don’t Just Watch

Non-profit entities and programs—think food banks, shelters, and children’s charities, to name a few—are usually in great need of help at holiday time. Companies can pitch in in a wide range of ways that involve their employees, be it by collecting gifts or food for donation, soliciting donations from staff (and matching them), or something else. One business E-Complish knows obtains holiday “wish lists” from families in need who are served by a local organization. Employees are asked to “adopt” a family or member of a family and purchase the items on their list, with the firm adding its own donations. Those who cannot make their own donation—or want to supplement it—participate by helping to wrap and deliver gifts. According to one of the business’ directors, participating in charitable holiday activities makes employees appreciative of what they have and gives them the necessary push to power through the holidays.

Up the Management Training Ante

During the holiday season, managers face some challenges and dilemmas they typically do not encounter at other times of the year. Scheduling tops the list. On the one hand, managers cannot give all their subordinates time off at the same time. But as mentioned above, employees should be able to arrange leave in their desired time frame, or at least close to it.

According to another study by West Monroe, more than one-third of managers receive no formal training in this area; most lack knowledge and confidence. However, in an article published in the Harvard Business Review, a former managing director with the firm noted that “while managers can’t blindly let their entire team take the holidays off, they can (learn to) do a better job of having open conversations with their employees around holiday PTO and job satisfaction.”

E-Complish supports a flexible, equitable work environment year-round—especially during the holidays.

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