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How to work productively with diminished staff over the festive period

[fa icon="calendar"] 12/21/16 4:00 PM / by SAMTRAC




The festive season is, to use a colloquial term, higgledy piggledy. Everyone is clamouring for time off to be with their loved ones and to take a well-earned break, while employers are trying to accommodate the rush for leave and keep their companies running smoothly and productively. There’s also the added problem that parents of children at school have to take leave at this time of year as schools close for a considerable period.

At the same time, the current economic climate means no business wants to be in a position of disappointing valuable customers – something that could happen with severely diminished staff levels.


So, what ways can we avoid things like this happening?

The first thing to remember is that, while holiday leave can be both a statutory and contractual entitlement, you have to right to refuse to allow an employee taking a holiday at a certain time of year subject to your contractual provisions. Should you wish to do this, you should also consider the effect that this may have on employee morale. So how do you keep your company ticking over and also support your employees in their efforts to maintain a healthy work–life balance? And how do you keep morale up for those employees working through the holiday period? The following checklist will help.


For the employees going on leave


Allocate leave strategically

Introduce a first come, first served basis when it comes to allocating holiday leave. Of course, you will need to calculate how many employees from a particular department or job role you can afford to have off at any one time. Once you have done this, communicate it to the affected employees and stick to it rigidly.


Set holidays

An employer can dictate times of the year when the company closes. These are sometimes known as ‘annual shutdowns’. Doing this ensures the ‘shutdowns’ are taken at times that suit the business and that employees are taking all of their statutory entitlement to holiday leave. Remember: this option will not be applicable to all industry sectors.


Make use of temporary staff

There are numerous temporary work agencies that can provide you with staff on a short term basis to cover your needs. The thing to remember with this option is that you will of course have to pay for the temporary staff, as well as the holiday pay for the employees on leave. You also need to ensure the temporary employees are properly qualified to fill the roles to which you allocate them.


For the employees working through


Recognise employees with thank-you notes and/or small gifts

‘In workplace culture, the power of thanks is too often overlooked,’ says Eric Mosley, CEO, Globoforce, an employee recognition company. ‘When employees are thanked for a job well done, they are motivated and inspired to do great work; they are driven to surpass company goals; and they are happier and more committed to their employer,’ he says. ‘Eighty-six percent of employees say that being recognised motivates them in their job.


Organise an employee appreciation day or outing

There is no better time to show your employees that you appreciate them than during the festive holiday season. Have a company-wide meeting to review the achievements of the year and discuss goals for the new year. And as a reward for their achievements, treat your employees to a breakfast or lunch. If your company has extra money in the budget, consider taking your employees on an off-site excursion to work on additional team building and strategic planning.


Reward staff

During the festive season, begin a tradition of handing out weekly employee recognition awards. This will encourage hard work and will motivate employees to go to the office to see if they are an award recipient. Management can take it a step further by talking up the awards and sending out company-wide emails to encourage some friendly competition.


Provide free food

Never underestimate the power of food, especially when it's free. The holidays are an opportunity for organisations to showcase that they care about their employees. And one way to do this is by offering perks like food in the office. Indeed, the 2014 Seamless Corporate Accounts Food in the Workplace survey found that 57 percent of respondents said food-based perks make them feel more valued and appreciated by their employers, and 50 percent said food in the office makes them feel more satisfied with their employers.


Sponsor a volunteer day

Give the team a day or half-day off to volunteer at a charity of their choice or as a company. It will promote fellowship and good will.


Pamper your employees

Consider treats such as bringing in a massage therapist to offer your team back massages. This will help everyone to feel rejuvenated and give one last big push to finish the year strong. Also consider bringing in a yoga and/or meditation specialist into the office. Having someone come to the office makes it very easy for employees to take a break from their busy schedules and find a moment to relax.


Have staff engage in friendly competitions

Why not try something such as purchasing FitBits for everyone in the office for a healthy walking competition amongst the teams. Everyone will be competing for the most number of steps taken. The winner will receive a year-long gym membership to kick off a healthy and happy new year.


Hold a wrapping party

Let employees get gifts delivered to the office and hold a wrapping party. Employees can:

  • share shopping tips and gift ideas
  • swap recipes for holiday meals and cocktails, and
  • hold a contest for the most creative holiday out-of-office auto reply or ugliest holiday sweater.

By acknowledging the holiday joy, you let employees know you value their efforts and contributions that help make your business successful.


Offer flexible hours

It has been proven that by offering flexible scheduling, employees will be more productive when they are in the office. This is especially important during the holidays, when workers are personally busy.





Topics: Holidays, workplace



SAMTRAC International is the leading occupational health, safety and environment (HSE) management e-learning training course that provides students with the foundational and fundamental knowledge critical to occupational HSE management.

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