As the holiday season approaches, every employer must establish a plan and schedule for the next few months. It’s stressful enough that you must fight the crowds at the mall and wait in endless lines in order to enjoy holiday activities, but running a business or managing a team of people during the holidays can be especially trying for business owners.
Manage Vacation Time
If they haven’t already, people will likely start giving their requests for time off during the holidays. The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is such a popular vacation time that you may have a hard time getting anything done.
Some businesses will close for a few days during the holidays to save on operation costs, but that may not be an option for you. If you already have a great scheduling system to manage your payroll and track time-off requests, then you’ll be ahead of the curve.
For everyone else, a good old-fashioned calendar will do.
Sit down with your team and get their time-off requests logged on the calendar so you can see where your weak spots will occur over the holidays. Scheduling vacation time together as a staff will help your employees understand the complexities of staffing through the holiday period and will cut down on the grumbling over who gets which days.
Plan Holiday Parties
The office holiday party is either something people love attending or something people dread, and it doesn’t seem like there is any middle ground. It’s really tough to plan something that is entertaining, not too cheesy, and not too edgy for HR, but it can be done.
Depending on the size of your office or team, you’ll want to involve a wide variety of people in the planning process.
Try grabbing folks from several departments, so you’ll get a wide lens on personal tastes and what people want. Chances are, among your employees, you’ll find people who enjoy party-planning and are looking for an opportunity to contribute.
The other issues that arise around holiday parties are all the horror stories like “Steve from Accounting got so drunk he wouldn’t hand over the mic after karaoke.” That’s terrible for the people listening and extremely poor judgment by Steve, but it also means that there probably weren’t enough things going on at the party to keep folks engaged and entertained.
Try planning an agenda that keeps the activities flowing (rather than the booze), but also feels fun and relaxed. Give plenty of wiggle room between events like speeches, dinner, awards and so on. Many times, these events are used as team building or to honor employee performance. That’s great, and should be a part of the celebration, but make sure you’ve set up the agenda to include some fun as well so it’s not all business.
Close Up Shop
Unless you’re in a service business like a restaurant, you will probably have days during the holiday season that the office will need to be closed. Days like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day are a given, but there are other times where it might be beneficial to close the business. Quite a few people ask for Black Friday or Christmas Eve off, so you should take a look at how many sales you expect to conduct on those days.
Is it even worth opening the doors?
Certainly, a retail business will be open on Black Friday, but what about professional services firms like CPAs or Law Offices? It may cost more to be open these days than can be made in revenues.
Once the decision to be closed has been made, it’s important that you’re communicating the closure days to both your employees as well as your customers or clients. Nothing will look worse for your business or feel as bad for your clients as it will when they show up at your door, only to find a “Sorry We’re Closed!” sign hanging there.
If you have a mailing list or email list, make sure that you’re noting the closing days there. Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media posts will go a long way to getting the word out as well.
Change your phone answering messages well in advance of the dates so that anyone calling hears the dates and times that you’ll be closed and put up a sign somewhere in your offices so that visiting customers will know when you won’t be open to serve them.
The holidays can be a time to enjoy the giving spirit and celebrate the year’s accomplishments, or they can be a stressful couple of months that you have to weather every year. Where you fall on that spectrum will depend on how well you’ve planned your operations for the season. Taking care to set your customers’ expectations and organize your employees’ celebrations and time-off will go a long way toward making your life easier when the holiday season comes around.