How to manage your team at Christmas

21 December 2015 -


The festive period brings with it fun and joy for many, but for businesses it can often bring a headache as to how best to manage their workforces over the holidays

Jermaine Haughton

In case you are unaware, Christmas is fast-approaching with trees, turkeys and James Bond re-reruns once again filling our lives over the festive period.

However, for many bosses the countdown to the holidays is extremely stressful, from struggling to service demanding customers to meeting crunching project deadlines. The biggest challenge, however, is often keeping staff motivated and focused on their work ahead of the infamous Christmas party.

The season of goodwill can contain a minefield of obstacles for employers in managing their workforce, even if their work is not season-specific. Staff holidays and annual leave are often a contentious issue. With the kids off school, an array of social events and the arrival of family members from around the country, most employees will want some time off.

Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, in particular, tend to be the two days most hotly fought over. And with Christmas and New Year’s Day both falling on a Friday this year (and a bank holiday on the intervening Monday due to Boxing Day being on a weekend), many managers face a dilemma of whether to give staff extra time off on the dates between, or encourage them to turn up as usual.

For some businesses such as hotels and catering, it is unlikely staff will be given time off due to the period being a major profit-generator. But for other industries including financial and creative services, giving employees a proper break during the festivities can be valuable in avoiding staff disputes, boosting loyalty and productivity – even if it makes the rush to complete work more hectic.

Legally, employers have the right to refuse leave, and are supposed to give as much notice about their decision. Managers must always keep in mind the goal of acting fairly and consistently, and in order to do so Stewart Gee from the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, said staff should be made aware of what leave they are entitled to.

“Companies should have an annual leave policy which gives guidance on how to book time off, and what percentage of staff leave can be accommodated at any one time,” he said.

For roles that do not necessarily require the employee to be based in the office, some employers allow for flexible working, whereby staff work from home for some or all of the time, or perhaps do shorter hours on certain days. As long as staff are still working their contracted hours, it shouldn’t affect your business, but you’ll likely find that your employees will be more motivated, as well as grateful for the flexibility.

Hiring The Right Temps

On the other hand, many retailers and hospitality businesses will be hiring extra staff this month to cash in on the frenzy of consumers preparing for the big day. Amazon have taken on 19,000 temps primarily in fulfilment and customer service centres and delivery firm Yodel has employed up to 7,000 extra staff, including more directly employed drivers, owner drivers and self-employed couriers to cope with the rush. For their small- and medium-sized competitors, tighter funds may make investing in temporary staff more risky, especially if managers feel stretched to man-manage and train new starters.

Nevertheless, many retailers have been successful in recruiting enthusiastic students, bringing back retired employees for their experience and knowledge or used freelance contract staff.

But all these fresh faces do present a problem for managers.

“Take into consideration the fact that the temporary staff will be the most unfamiliar people in your workplace at potentially the busiest time of year,” said Institution of Occupational Safety and Health consultant Phil Bates. “So they might need more training and supervision than when you recruit staff during a less busy time of year. You want people to be competent in doing the job you have recruited them to do.”

Also, if the investment in new temporary staff during the Christmas period is required most years, managers are well advised to look at a range of technological resources available to them to help in their goals. For example cloud-based time and attendance systems, such as uAttend, help keep accurate track of hours worked ensuring everyone is paid fairly and businesses can keep control of wage bills with real time reporting. Moreover, biometric fingerprint readers are one of the fastest and easiest ways to clock staff in and out of the office.

Staff concentration, focus and morale

Now that you have worked out who and how many of your team will be keeping your operations afloat over the festive period, you are obliged to really help them excel over Christmas. With many workers focused on events happening outside the workplace, it is a common occurrence for employees to experience a drop in concentration, morale and productivity.

Over two-thirds (68%) of workers say they are less productive throughout the entire month of December compared to other months, with nearly one-half admitting they did 10-20% less work. The main reasons for this output reduction included a combination of exhaustion, lack of motivation and hangovers.

Therefore, making time for all your staff becomes an even more vital aspect of a manager’s responsibilities, as well as using the “Christmas lift” to their advantage to keep a fun and friendly atmosphere. A Christmas tree in the centre of the office, decorations, relaxed dress code, after-work drinks, festive music playing in the background and mince pies being passed around the office are all ways of demonstrating your affection and appreciation to your staff.

Powered by Professional Manager