This is the time of year when most of us are closing out the last few big deals, clawing up extra end-of-year revenue from companies not wanting to waste budget, and then putting it on cruise control for a few weeks for some much needed R&R. As we head into January, I’ve acknowledged that this has become the standard way for teams to finish up the year. On the surface, it’s not terrible as you can only push so hard for so long before the team burns out. The issue really comes from the hangover after the vacation where you lose another week of productivity as people get back into the flow. This means you are losing 2-3 weeks of optimal performance which is a major issue — but one that’s avoidable.
During the holiday season, I require my team to take time off. Our unlimited vacation policy allows every employee to focus on working diligently and more efficiently during peak hours, while having flexibility to take breaks when needed. I’ve found that this policy ensures that the employees return motivated, energized and ready to get back to work. Here are some tips to let your employees have a great time off, but also come back ready to rock.
Set Goals Before the Holidays
When I discuss vacation time, I encourage every person to unplug completely and recharge his/her batteries. In addition, it is important for employees to have a support system for the new year. This ensures that they work together to develop a positive attitude and devise new work strategies collectively before they leave. Everyone deserves time off, but no one can afford to let it affect their work. Using a focused half day to prioritize and outline to-dos before heading back into work is an important step to set yourself up for success in the new quarter.
Appreciate Your Team’s Effort And Hard Work
I like the team I work with, and I’m certain they enjoy what they do too…most days. However, when a big chunk of the team is out of the office, it’s important to still stay connected. A quick call to hear about the fun stuff everyone is up to for the holidays, or to discuss the company’s vision for the near future goes a long way. It is crucial to bring the team together for a quick conversation to applaud their contributions in the past year, and create excitement for the future. So, schedule a few minutes to round up the employees, express appreciation, and give them something to look forward to post-vacation. Keeping the team engaged during this time further facilitates the camaraderie and creates a little break from the holiday/family madness. Many times it’s a welcome escape.
Maintain Employee Engagement
What are the small company improvements your team has been bringing up? What are the bright ideas that people would love to put in place but have not had time to work on? Vacations are a great time to focus on relaxing and thinking big vs. day to day. If employees have personal or professional projects that they have been putting off, this is the time to make them happen. For instance, I was able to research my family tree on Ancestry.com two years ago. It was a cool discovery I kept putting off, but one that was personally rewarding. Finding ways to stay busy on challenging activities keeps the brain sharp by moving our thought process to problem solving mode.
Many of these same techniques can be used throughout the year to keep people moving past the lulls. There is a fine line to straddle between adding homework over the holidays and keeping people engaged. At the end of the day, we all need to make sure to pick a strategy that fits each person’s culture.
For most companies, January is a big month with new budgets and exciting initiatives ready to be put into place. They simply can’t afford for their employees to come out of the gates too slowly. So remember, let your employees take time off, but prepare them to come back to work stronger than ever.