The Holiday Work Slowdown

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holiday slow down

Can you really get meaningful productivity out of employees in November and December? While it may seem counter-intuitive, the November – Mid January holiday season is an excellent time to get work done. While many employees are trying to finish their personal to-dos (which probably includes a little on-the-clock online shopping), the trick is being thoughtful about the type of work that has the best chance of getting done and setting productivity goals and rewards. Intentional effort expended toward making this time productive can strengthen your culture and build employee engagement. With these goals in mind, consider the strategies below as ways to make the end of the year a gift to your staff.  


  • Commit to no meetings for a specific time frame, i.e, 12/15 through MLK Day. In return for this gift, encourage your team members to choose a project to complete and have ready at the first staff meeting of the new year. The earlier you decide on the time frame, the better, because it helps people decide whether to choose a project to complete on their own or if partnering is feasible in light of vacation schedules. 


  • Since everybody is making lists and giving gifts, ask your team members to give you the gift of information by sharing rewards that they’d like throughout the year that aren’t monetary. Additionally, ask them to identify professional development opportunities and skills that they would appreciate. 


  • The holiday season is the best time to have diversity and inclusion conversations! The various religious and ethnic groups represented on your team will benefit from talking about various customs and traditions and how to respect and embrace one another despite their varying cultural backgrounds. By the same token, you also create opportunities for team members who are of the same religious and ethnic background to learn how different people live their personal values and cultures which enhances tolerance and respect all year long. Make this activity by ordering a casual lunch for your team together tossing around the diversity ball. Alternatively, you can create your own list of questions about how people feel about the holidays (or whatever else you want) and write them on a blank thumball – and be sure to do it before your “no meetings” window opens!


  • If your organization has some sort of holiday party, go out of your two to do two things. First, figure out how to make it as welcoming to people who don’t celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, etc. Second, while there, go out of your way to mingle with people you don’t normally engage. See your time and attention as a gift to those team members who want to build their relationship with you and to make people feel more closely connected with one another. Depending on how your party is structured, instead of exchanging gifts, consider an “information exchange” whereby team members share things they’d like their colleagues to know about them to facilitate better working relationships.
    • If we’re ever embroiled in conflict, this is how you can help me get unstuck


  • I prefer a heads up before dropping by my desk
    •I’m not a morning person
    •I enjoy brainstorming sessions and welcome helping you think through challenges or ideas
    •My hobbies are _______________________.

Not only might you learn things about your team members, many of them may feel relieved about not having to spend money on co-workers.


  • If your office is one where people are besieged with interruptions and distractions, test out “quiet hour.” Think of it like the quiet car on the train. Studies show that people do their best work when they are able to focus in 90 minute blocks of time. Give your employees the gift of focus!   


  • Instead of swapping gifts, choose a year-long team service project. Whereas a gift swap is once a year, a team service project creates connections throughout the year. If you work with your team members to figure out what service project has enough interest, this is another opportunity to learn about what your team members value. This information helps you think about ways to motivate them, but also creates bonding opportunities. One last thing, it is important to choose a project that can be done during work hours and requires minimal travel in order to insure that the greatest number of employees have the ability to participate. 


Finally, during the first team meeting of the new year, reflect upon how your team benefitted from the holiday gifts. Then, have a group discussion to develop a list of New Year’s Resolutions focused around continuing to build upon the benefits you discovered and ending unproductive norms. Finally, ask for volunteers to hold the team accountable and to initiate conversations around persistent failures. 

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