The Naughty & Nice of Festive HR

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The Naughty & Nice of Festive HR

Keeping staff motivated and engaged is a challenge at any time of year, but during the festive period it becomes more difficult than ever. With pressure to meet deadlines and hit targets, financial stress and a workforce who begin thinking about family time; the approaching holidays can cause all kinds of problems.

The winter season can have a big impact on any enterprise or SME, with employers facing a minefield of potential pitfalls and challenges. Let’s consider the festive ‘issue’ from a HR perspective

We define the two main Christmas personas


The “It’s Christmas time folks!”



We all know several of these jolly types – Christmas playlist kicks in in October festive sweater in November, gleeful chats about plans over the holidays; throughout!

For this type of employee, they’re in holiday mode pretty early on. Why bother starting a new task when a long-break is just round the corner? How can I focus on getting something done when all my energies are on planning the perfect Christmas period? When employees are doing a countdown on how many days are left in the office before a big-break, this clearly affects motivation and productivity.

In a survey made from The Leadership Factor Q2 16, on over 1000 UK employees, almost half of the respondents admitted doing up to 20% less work in the last month of the year, with one in six saying it was as much as 30% less. Another survey conducted by Rostrum, regarding mixed sector employees in 2015, found that more than a quarter (27%) are less motivated around the Christmas period compared to the rest of the year, while the same Rostrum survey, a year later this time, found that 28% of people will avoid accepting or beginning new work as they wind down for the holidays. It’s fair to say this employee is on a countdown until Santa comes a’ knockin’


The “I am the ONLY ONE who cares!?”

ristmas party


For every jolly type there’s a stressed and militant counterpart. Since many organisations may see an employee slow down, others will have to work harder to make sure everything gets done before the break, dealing with a remarkable amount of pressure.

It seems that a panicked approach is an increasingly and unfortunate norm, and this shift in attitude is not just unique to us Brits. US-based recruitment agency Accountemps (LINK) have polled business executives regularly over a 10-year period (from 2005 to 2015), providing data on how staff attitudes leading up to a holiday have changed. Many people seems to feel more stressed approaching Christmas!

Within workdays with tight deadlines multi-track responsibilities, or simply THIS is the biggest sales period for your organisation, some employees will feel anxious that a big break is approaching, which can be compounded by the festive ambivalence by the occasional colleague, which may explain why they feel more motivated. But they are actually motivated by stress, which reduces long-term motivation and worsen work-life balance. Which is clearly a vicious cycle.   

So, what’s the best way to deal with these different but close-related issues? And what should we do then to keep our people motivated throughout the Christmas period?

Here’s three simple strategies that can go a long way:

1) Plan for the Best

Remember last December, when you and the team worked non-stop to get all of your work completed by Christmas Eve? To avoid a repeat of any such pressures this year and risk dangerously impacting morale, it’s key to do forward plan. If the whole team is aligned and excited about ending the year with a celebration and starting the next year strong, it’s going to help them convert the fun holiday spirit into having a great time at work, too. And bare in mind, the earlier you do this the better, as it will allow you to more evenly distribute tasks over a greater period of time and meet targets without even needing to stay late.

Don’t forget to fully consider the Sun and Slope seekers here too! People bickering each the best days to go skiing or sunbathing is tedious and can leave an indelible mark if they don’t get their way without rational explanation

2) Prepare for frustrations

People may be using annual leave early, otherwise engaged or not fully able to assist in your tasks. Prepare for this by creating scenario plans which map out the possible causes and affects of the business situations you need to face in the time around the holiday period.

“I asked Jon for those designs, but he’s ran off Skiing!!”

Not ideal sure, but if you structure your upcoming working weeks around likely scenarios you will have already asked Jon to share his unfinished designs with colleagues, who will complete on his behalf. Sounds small, but remember, most people around this time of year can be flu stricken, on annual leave or not functioning in top gear.

Once you understand your variables you won’t be frustrated!

3) Show empathy

It’s important for Directors and Managers to have empathy with their teams, and to understand that the holidays are an emotional season, both with positive energy and also people reflecting on their personal lives.

So be sensitive to the needs of your people at this time and try to create a positive environment during this time, taking care to make every person feel recognised, and accepted within the team, within the department and wider company

The right reward can make an employee feel worthwhile and satisfied within their role and that their contribution has been recognised or that they have a part to play in the future.

The feeling of pride and gratitude your employees will feel after having had a great time with their colleagues and employers before Christmas will increase employee engagement and organisational affinity, which can have real influence to organisational retention rates (especially in the dreaded Jan/Feb periods!)

The festive season is a fantastic force to bring people together, don’t miss this opportunity to bond with colleagues and possibly forge new friendships. An informal catch up over a mulled wine can do wonders for either one of your holiday workplace personas

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