9 Strategies for Organizations to Keep Employee Engagement Up, and Absenteeism Down, During the Holidays:

Find that Sweet Spot Between Humbugs and Holiday Cheer

It’s that time of year again: year-end reports and indicator analyses, setting budgets and projections for the next year, employee reviews – all while HR has come up with a caroling contest between departments because … why not? Bah humbug!

Okay. Perhaps you’re not so humbug-y, but regardless of your level of holiday cheer (or not), the end of the year is stressful. Family, work, financial, and social commitments can be daunting. Instead of making things festive, it’s possible your organization is piling another level of stress on collaborators. Add unhealthy eating and lowered activity levels, the holidays end up being a peak time of year for illness and absenteeism.

So how can you find the balance to keep employee engagement up, absenteeism down, and productivity steady between latkes and Ho! Ho! Ho!?

1. Be flexible. Kids have school plays, talent shows, and holiday concerts. Families fly in from afar. Employees are juggling work and home more than ever during this time of year. Allowing them to leave early, come in late, or find a way to schedule work around these holiday moments will make a huge difference in their peace of mind and yours.

2. Follow through. If you tell a collaborator she can leave early, make sure she gets to leave early. This is critical to keep up engagement.

3. Keep things reasonable. Some people love the holidays. Others don’t. Imposing mandatory holiday contests (desk decorating, caroling) and other activities takes time many employees simply don’t have at this time of year. Encourage festivities but keep things within reason.

4. Make health a priority. This is a fun time of year for people to bring in and share favorite family recipes. Budget for healthy treats to mix with these beautiful holiday traditional foods. Fruit and veggie trays, hummus dip, nuts, and other healthy treats will not only give employees the boost they need, but it will also help balance out the high-sugar, high-fat holiday foods that might make them sluggish.

5. What do your employees need? Though not everyone celebrates the same way, a good number of people spend time shopping, and wrapping, during the holidays. Set aside time for online shopping. Have a wrapping table set up in the break room with newspaper and comics for colorful wrapping (inexpensive and eco-friendly, too!). Closer to Christmas and/or New Year, bring in someone to do manicures and/or pedicures at the office (saving valuable time searching for a salon!). All of these are low-cost solutions to real time-problems collaborators face during the holidays.

6. Don’t forget the kids! Ah, yes. It’s that time of year school gets out, and parents still are working to meet those deadlines. Work with the local community center, art center, or YMCA for discounted holiday camps for employees’ children.

7. Beware of gift exchanges. Yes. We know. Many people love those gift exchanges. Just as many, though, don’t. Whether it’s a $5.00 gift or $20.00, that’s a lot of time and money to spend on Joyce in finance. Instead of gift exchanges, why not do a toy, canned food, or book drive for a local organization? People love to give. Finding a space to share with those in need can be more meaningful.

8. Celebrate! Put Celebration Wall up, with statistics and successes of the organization during the year. Take time to acknowledge employees’ contributions with a 12-days of Employee Recognition themed tree. Put up a challenges wall – for employees to write down the biggest challenges faced during the year with ideas on how to make them better.

9. Make a wish-list. Have employees write down what they most want to learn during the next year. A culture of continuous improvement, one in which employees lead the way in terms of their wants coupled with HR and the organization’s needs, is a ticket to success.

No matter where you or your organization fall on the spectrum of holiday joy and humbug, the holidays are inevitable. Creating ways to make them easier, healthier, and more manageable is key to keep employee engagement and productivity up while reducing absenteeism. Are you ready?

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