Beat the December slump: Keeping your people motivated

Lorelei Bowman

04/12/2018
Categories: Employee experience, Culture

Almost like clockwork, the 1st of December swings around and workplace productivity slowly begins to drop down. A study by Peakon revealed that by the 1st, 15% of employees feel that they’ve ‘checked out’ for the holidays. By the time schools have broken up and more people are taking time off, this reaches 57% by the 18th of December. It’s an inevitable side effect; the price we pay for the excitement of a fun-filled festive season. But it can be a significant drain for organisations, particularly when most employees will already be geared up to take time off over the holidays. So how can you motivate your people and keep productivity levels up, without coming across like Scrooge?

Embrace the festivities!

Working during the holidays is an unfortunate fact of adulthood. To keep spirits high, why not embrace the festivities? Let people listen to holiday music (ideally through headphones, so not everyone is subjected to Mariah Carey on repeat), rally the team to decorate with tacky tinsel and gaudy baubles, enjoy an ugly Christmas jumper day or invest in an afternoon off for a festive film or quiz! These kinds of little festivities to look forward to mean employees don’t feel like they’re missing out by being at work. And if people resent their job less, and enjoy themselves a little more; they’ll naturally be more motivated and productive!  

A day of productivity, in return for an hour of fun

What if, each day in the lead up to Christmas, your work paused for half an hour to offer some (optional) festivities. People can take a moment to get their gingerbread latte and catch-up with a colleague, or take part in scheduled activities like decoration-making or a trivia game. While not all types of business have the luxury of this flexibility, even workplaces such as retail or hospitality can still encourage employees to take a few moments throughout the day to engage in festive fun.

If it’s half an hour of cutting paper snowflakes, or one minute of overloading your coffee with cinnamon; having a Christmassy break to look forward to gives people a reason to focus on their work. Just as research shows a correlation between productivity after a lunch break, your people will work better if they know there’s a scheduled break coming up which they can channel their festivities into!

Flexible working is your friend

Whether it’s an afternoon off to see their children’s nativity play, or leaving early to pick up the tree; around the holidays employees crave time off to spend with family or work through the ‘to do’ list. Throughout December, 42% of employees admitted to Christmas shopping online instead of working, with 17% saying they leave early and 12% taking longer lunches. So, instead of having distracted (or worse, bitter) employees who wish they were out shopping or with loved ones, why not try giving a little extra flexibility?

Encouraging people to utilise their flexible working scheme, or even offering an extra half an hour for lunch breaks, means employees don’t feel distracted or like they’re missing out. Surveys have shown higher rates of productivity in the lead up to a personal holiday, and this is no different. Consider giving employees one free afternoon off, to take before the 25th. Schools may give teachers a ‘Christmas shopping’ day, and some Civil Service workers get the same time off. So while it may feel counter-intuitive to give PTO when productivity is low, but with the promise of this time off, concentration and quality of work will ultimately improve.

'Tis the season to encourage teamwork

If productivity is low, focus on the other elements that make your organisation a success. Christmas is the ideal time to encourage teamwork and collaboration. People are generally excited for the holidays, and in sociable spirits; so use this to everyone’s advantage! Prioritise your collaborative and creative projects, or put a sociable spin on other tasks. Suggest people co-work and plan ideas together, feedback in person rather than email or just take five to catch up with what their colleagues are working on.

Working closely with your teammates is always important, and regular feedback and communication is always helpful, but during the holidays it can provide that much-craved social boost as well.

Christmas isn't for everyone

The holidays can be a tough time for many people – bereavements, broken relationships, family or financial struggles can make the season difficult. Not all employees want to take part in festivities, so the optional element of these activities and perks provides the perfect balance between embracing the season and being understanding of individual preferences. It enables all of your people to enjoy the cheer, spend time together and engage with your workplace culture, whether they’re celebrating or not.

Would you like to boost your people’s productivity and wellbeing? Take a look at our blog on using employee benefits to improve workplace motivation.

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