Ah...the sights, smells, and sounds of the holidays. What could be bad about such a warm and loving time of year?
Well, if you're supervising employees on a work project, you might find yourself fighting valiantly against the notorious distractions of the holidays. After all, it's hard for workers to concentrate when their minds are filled with thoughts of eggnog and holiday gifts.
Understanding how to keep employees engaged is about more than just making things stricter. There is indeed a way to be understanding and have good results at the same time. Here are five major things to consider when you're trying to avoid the holiday slump.
1. Cultivate Compassion
Take a moment to think—really think—about why employees tend to disengage more around the holiday season. Is it that they're slipping into "holiday mode" and slacking off? Maybe.
Or, is it just that your employees' priorities shift toward non-work matters around this time? When people are thinking about their family more, it's no wonder they're in a new mindset about what really matters in life.
This doesn't mean you have to accept lower-quality work around the holidays. However, it does mean you should switch up your approach.
Working With What You've Got
Let your employees know you understand if they have a different perspective around the holiday months. Instead of trying to fight against this, see if you can work with it.
Encourage your employees to let you know about commitments and struggles in their lives. Then you can work out a system to make sure they can accomplish their tasks with less pressure. For example, you can give them a large amount of information and material at the beginning of the month so they can work on it at their own pace.
You can also establish check-ins at strategic points and adjust your expectations accordingly. If you've assigned a task to an employee but then they get caught up in family matters, you can redistribute some of the work toward other employees.
This approach lets your employees be more honest about their capabilities around the holidays. At the same time, it ensures that the work gets done.
2. Establish Norms
One way to establish "rules" without making them seem too hierarchical is to approach them as norms. This way, they'll feel more natural to maintain, and they can change when needed.
Luckily, you don't need to do all the explaining yourself. You can use our bespoke tools to create engaging content for your employees' specific needs or onboarding. Our creative team can help you describe what norms are—and after you've established the norms for your workers, we can make an explainer video for future employees. Neat, right?
If you and your employees have different ideas of what communication should look like, this can cause major issues. Lots of times, people aren't trying to be disrespectful or overbearing. They just think of communication differently.
It could be good to have an intentional conversation about everyone's thoughts on communication norms. Then you can put together a set of group norms to stick to.
This is different from typical "rules" because the solidity lies in how often these norms happen, not the authority of any rule-maker.
What are your current norms around giving feedback to each other? As someone in a supervising role, you might be well-versed in giving feedback—but how about taking it?
Rather than guessing what your employees think, you can ask them directly. They might have ideas and comments you never thought of. You can ask for feedback using both formal and informal methods.
Formal and Informal Requests for Feedback
If you're going the formal route, you can put together an anonymous feedback form. If you have a human resources department at your workplace, this is a great place to start.
The informal approach is more about workplace culture. You can set a goal of fostering an environment where your employees can feel free to let you know when there's something you can improve on.
Of course, this is easier said than done. Even if you tell your workers they can tell you when something's wrong, they might be (understandably) hesitant. Try starting slow.
This is about trust—and trust is something you have to build up over time. If you can find an opportunity to respond to a piece of feedback from an employee, make a point to tell your team that you're making a change in response to something someone else brought up.
3. Look for Commitment, Not Compliance
When you're responsible for the work output of a whole team, you might feel like you need them to respect your authority and listen to what you say.
It's understandable why you'd feel like this. Compared to the rest of your team, you might have more of a big-picture vision of how an entire project is going to come together.
But there's another way. Instead of trying to get your employees to go along with whatever you say, you can encourage them to have the same kind of committed vision you have. This way, they'll be motivated by excitement, not fear.
You might find that this produces higher-quality work anyway. When employees are trying to guess what you want from them (and there is indeed some guesswork, even if you do your best to give clear directions), they'll look to you to see whether they're doing a good job.
In contrast, if employees have more autonomy and freedom of choice, they can judge the quality of their work by themselves. And this is often an easier judgement to make. If they're going in their own direction, they can tell when they're making something truly great.
4. How to Keep Employees Engaged Remotely
Keeping your employees focused and committed is already tough around the holidays, but it's even harder when they're not in the office with you. A solid remote team will weather the storm in much better shape than one that's haphazardly put together.
The Return of Water Cooler Conversations
Has your office transitioned from in-person work to remote work due to the pandemic? If so, have you really transitioned?
You've switched out normal meetings for video meetings. You've upped your email communications. But what about those sweet, unexpectedly crucial water cooler conversations?
When you go from in-person to remote, one pitfall you might run into is only switching over the "important" things. But small talk and check-ins are more important than you might realise.
So, though it might seem awkward at first, consider building in these little moments even when you're apart. Take a few minutes at the start of a meeting to ask how everyone's doing. And try to finish early so you can spend some time unwinding and chatting.
Dealing with Different Time Zones
Sometimes working at home also means you're working in different parts of the world. The way you approach this can change the whole working environment.
Some bosses and supervisors won't think much about workers in different time zones. They figure everyone should still conform to the time zone of the headquarters. But regardless of what's "fair," what will actually make your employees feel better?
If you at least put effort into accounting for conflicting time zones, your employees will notice. For example, you might want to embrace non-simultaneous work.
Instead of making all your decisions at your video meetings, consider relying more on email and file-sharing platforms—or at least having those options available. This way, it's less crucial to get full attendance at every meeting. People who have to miss a meeting or are unable to fully focus during that time can still go over everything online at a later point.
And you can use our off-the-shelf content to provide a wealth of information for your employees even when you're not available. Our content touches on everything from cybersecurity to health and safety.
5. Schedule Events for the Daytime
Here's a simple one that you might not have thought of. Whether you're scheduling an extra meeting or a holiday gathering, try to keep it to normal daytime hours.
Around the holidays, people want to spend time with their loved ones. You might think you're doing your employees a favour by scheduling some bonding time together, but you should also consider their time availability. For some people, these gatherings might come off as extra work—fun work, but work regardless.
Do any of your employees have children? If so, the lack of school around the holidays might mean these employees have to juggle more responsibilities than usual.
So bite the bullet and schedule those events for the normal working hours! It might seem like this will cut into your productivity, but the whole point of a bonding effort is to boost workplace morale (which, ahem, boosts productivity).
Now Get to Work (With Care)!
When you're figuring out how to keep employees engaged before the holidays, you might have to think beyond your first instincts. There's no need to squeeze people tighter when you can figure out a creative alternative instead.
Follow these tips to get everything done so you can enjoy the holidays in peace. And if you're looking for a way to bring fun, engaging content to your management style, you can sign up for a free trial of our interactive courses today!