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The holiday season presents unique challenges for organizations aiming to maintain productivity while ensuring that employees enjoy a well-deserved break. It’s no secret that end-of-year responsibilities, ranging from performance reviews to financial reporting to festive celebrations, can impede productivity and leave employees feeling drained as they approach the holiday period.

In 2018, West Monroe conducted a survey involving 2,000 full-time employees in the United States to explore the impact of the holiday season on workplace productivity. The findings revealed that financial incentives aren’t the sole drivers of motivation and productivity during this festive time, as remote work opportunities and flexibility also play a crucial role. Understanding these dynamics can empower managers to create conducive environments for a successful end-of-year period.

Here are some key insights from their survey:

Managers Should Facilitate Time-Off Requests

More than half (51%) of employees reported feeling uncomfortable when requesting time off during the holidays. Their discomfort primarily stems from the expectations that managers have regarding their availability during their time off. A possible explanation for this expectation is that the holiday season is the busiest time of the year for 25% of the respondents.

This discomfort is particularly pronounced in the banking sector, where nearly two-thirds (64%) of employees expressed unease when seeking time off. In contrast, only half of employees in the healthcare industry reported similar discomfort.

Remote Work and Office Closures Boost Productivity

Over half of the employees we surveyed mentioned that their employers allow remote work. Among these individuals, a resounding 91% expressed that they were equally or even more productive when working remotely. It’s no surprise that the ability to work remotely closely followed a bigger holiday bonus as a key factor for improving productivity during the holiday season.

Additionally, we found that closing the office for more days during the holidays significantly enhances in-office productivity. Employees at organizations with extended holiday office closures are far more likely to report increased productivity when they are at the office (42% compared to 17% in workplaces that remain open beyond federal holidays).

Recommendations for Enhancing Holiday Productivity

As businesses navigate the holiday season, it is essential for leaders to focus on employee productivity and engagement. Based on our survey data and our experience as workforce consultants in a competitive job market, we offer the following recommendations:

  • Consider extending office closures beyond federal holidays, when possible. While some companies may be concerned about the cost, the return on investment can be substantial. Employees report higher satisfaction and productivity leading into the new year, which can be a real asset in a tight job market. We have implemented this practice in our own organization, consistently witnessing positive results in terms of retention and Q1 productivity. For companies unable to extend office closures, offering alternative ways for employees to disconnect and recharge, such as flexible scheduling, is crucial.
  • Explore flexible scheduling options and recognition during the holidays. A significant portion (38%) of employees desire fewer in-office distractions to avoid overtime work. Some employees may prefer coming in early and leaving early to spend more time with their families. Flexible scheduling options and remote work opportunities can significantly enhance productivity and morale during the holiday season.
  • Provide managerial training to handle the holiday season effectively. Our results indicate a need for improved managerial training that equips managers to lead their teams, manage distractions, and handle PTO requests fairly. As previously highlighted, there is a lack of manager training in this area, with over one-third of managers receiving no formal training from their employers. The holiday season offers a prime opportunity to address this gap by enabling managers to engage in open conversations with their teams about holiday PTO and job satisfaction.

The holiday season doesn’t have to disrupt employee productivity. By listening to employees’ needs and empowering managers to make informed decisions, organizations can help employees and the business successfully navigate this busy time of the year.

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Ellie LaPosha

Ellie LaPosha

Marketing Manager

Meet Ellie, our esteemed team member who joined Merito Group in March 2023. With a background as the Marketing Director of a local wedding venue in Missouri, Ellie brings a wealth of experience in marketing strategy and execution. Prior to that, she honed her skills by working with small businesses, focusing on small business website design and brand development. Today, Ellie leads our dedicated marketing team, driving our clients’ success through user experience and digital marketing expertise. Her passion for creating impactful campaigns and delivering exceptional results makes her an invaluable asset to our organization.