Houston expert: How to keep your employees engaged during the holidays
When you combine standard holiday distractions with a year of prolonged and intensified stress, it can result in an exhausted team and real employee engagement (and productivity) problems for your business.
So, what can you do to minimize the impact of this year's holiday slump? It starts with understanding why employees tend to disengage during the holidays.
Reasons your employees are less engaged around the holidays
While employee engagement is something to be focused on throughout the year, the holiday season can be a particularly challenging time. Pre-pandemic, common distractions included holiday parties, upcoming travel plans, and the pressure to ﬁnd the perfect gift.
This year, travel and large holiday gatherings will likely take a back seat to burnout, pressure to keep family safe, and a different kind of shopping stress (like factoring in delivery times), which could pull employees away from work commitments.
Plus, the business gets busier. While not every business is seasonal, the end of the year tends to be a busier time for many companies, especially for those whose ﬁscal year matches the calendar. For these companies, the arrival of the holiday season can be an abrupt reminder that they only have a few days left to accomplish the year's goals, meet their annual quotas, or close out requests they've been meaning to get to throughout the year.
We also have the arrival of ﬂu season. When you combine cold and ﬂu season with a very contagious coronavirus, you can be looking at sidelining even the most dedicated employee for days or even weeks. And, unlike vacations, employers have a much harder time planning for illness.
There's also the end of the school session. Working parents are looking forward to spending quality time with their family, and prior to time off from work, they may still need to make childcare arrangements during the workday, the cost of which can be burdensome at the holidays.
Ideas for boosting employee engagement around the holidays
Even though the holidays can compound workplace stress, there are effective strategies you can put in place to minimize the impact of any holiday-related slumps:
Plan ahead. The single most important thing employers can do to prepare for the holiday season is to plan ahead. If you haven't already, make sure you have all PTO requests in. Forecasting for a lighter staff or arranging additional coverage and adjusting timelines for projects during the holidays can help you meet year-end objectives without intensifying the strain on your already stressed team.
Be ﬂexible and understanding. It's important to try to be as accommodating as you can (within reason). Between potential illnesses, family responsibilities, and added ﬁnancial burdens, employees will appreciate a little more ﬂexibility and understanding during the holidays. Allowing employees to adjust their schedules or even work overtime to complete projects can build morale and have a positive impact on your bottom line. If you can't accommodate employees' requests, communicate early, and keep an open dialogue to help them understand why. Loyal employees want the company to succeed as much as you do.
Encourage employees to stay healthy. We've all come to understand that more than ever this year. Keeping any wellness programs in place (online or otherwise) can make a big difference. To help keep your staff healthy, happy, and productive during the holidays, you can:
- Host a ﬂu-shot clinic or encourage employees to get one from their healthcare provider
- Provide general tips and education about the importance of getting enough rest
- Make sure common areas are cleaned thoroughly for those present in workplace facilities
Embrace the holiday spirit. While it may not be appropriate for every employer to focus on a speciﬁc holiday tradition, ignoring the holiday season isn't going to improve engagement. In fact, a little holiday cheer is exactly what most of us need this year. Even if your team is fully remote you can host intentional, inclusive activities to help employees decompress and encourage camaraderie and collaboration.
Show appreciation for your employees. A little extra employee appreciation or recognition is always needed and welcomed. Your team has worked through some very difficult times in 2020. Celebrate their successes with (if possible) an end-of-year bonus, a complimentary meal, a meaningful gift, or simply a kind email or handwritten note. The holiday season is a great opportunity to show your appreciation for all of your team's hard work. It can be a much-needed reset for what we all hope is a much-improved 2021.
Susan Crowder, senior HR adviser at Houston-based G&A Partners.