Office parties, secret Santas and year-end bonuses - the holidays can be the most wonderful time of the year in your workplace. But they can also be the least productive. According to CareerBuilder, about half of employees admit to doing their holiday shopping online while at the office. And a study by the Institute for Corporate Productivity found that 62 percent of companies experience a dip in workplace productivity during the holiday season.
"Business owners need to accept the fact that employees are going to be distracted at this time of year," says Bob Marsh, CEO of LevelEleven, a Detroit-based software company that creates apps to motivate team members.
But you can make the most of it, March says. Instead of stressing about the slump, managers should plan fun ways to embrace it. He offers three things small-business owners can do to keep up productivity during the holidays:
1. Use the season to your advantage. A lot of fun activities happen during the winter months, and smart entrepreneurs incorporate them into their office environment. For example, Marsh suggests using Monday Night Football as an incentive to get employees working.
"Offer tickets to whomever reaches their monthly quota first, or invite employees to watch the big game at a local sports bar if all goals are met," he suggests.
Or use the holidays as a chance to get to know employees better; ask about holiday plans, interests and even memories. These conversations create a great workplace culture, which Marsh says is the biggest driver for energizing your team.
2. Create friendly office competitions that encourage teamwork. Holiday obligations - at the office and at home - can add stress to your employees' lives. A good way to maintain productivity is to create fun competitions focused on workplace behavior, says Marsh.
"Break goals down it smaller chunks, which cause less stress and are easier to absorb," he says. "Set weekly goals to make sure everybody is on track, and then celebrate when the goals are met."
While they're an old-fashioned idea, Marsh says contests and competitions work. "When you post a leader board, you motivate the entire group," he says. "Often people in the middle look to and learn from the leaders. It can encourage focus - especially during a time of year when distraction is more common."
3. Encourage downtime to recharge. A little relaxation can go a long way, especially during the holiday season when employees experience new sources of stress.
"Organize an office-wide coffee break on Friday afternoons featuring staff-favorite seasonal blends, or provide an afternoon off to make a dent in holiday shopping," says Marsh. "Creating a comfortable and understanding work environment is crucial for employee productivity."
Marsh says people perform at their highest levels when they feel energized. During the holidays, he encourages managers to let employees relax on weekends. Pull back on off-hours communications, unless absolutely necessary.
"When you respect them, you motivate them to give the best to you and the company," he says.