Balance Fun and Productivity at the Year's End

Reader Resource

Position yourself for growth in 2017—join us live at the Entrepreneur 360 Conference in Long Beach, Calif. on Nov. 16. Secure Your Seat »

Along with holiday parties, shopping sprees, and family get-togethers, one hallmark of the holiday season is decreased productivity in the workplace. 

This is by no means an uncommon occurrence or hard to understand. It’s simply a matter of bandwidth: As people are pulled into different engagements with family and friends, they find it easier to be distracted at work, especially with the opportunity to do online shopping on the sly.

Unfortunately, these holiday festivities coincide with a crucial time for all businesses, namely, the last moments of pushing to reach end-of-year goals. 

Decreased productivity over the holiday season is a problem for all companies, but it carries special weight for startups. By necessity, most team members wear multiple hats. With so much to do, a slip in productivity can quickly turn into a landslide of unfinished projects that are left by the wayside. 

At the same time, holiday productivity is a tricky issue, one that can't be addressed by a manager's just "cracking the whip.” Because of the fast-paced, high-pressure nature of startups, burnout and fatigue are prevalent concerns. Overworking members of the team as they near the home stretch of the year can cause morale to plummet, which will lower productivity in a much more damaging way. 

An overly stressful workplace negatively affects productivity, but so does an environment with too many distractions. How then does a manager strike the balance between keeping up team members' spirits while sustaining a focus on meeting the company’s fourth-quarter goals? 

Here are five steps to balancing culture and work objectives to keep the holiday season productive: 

Related: Beat Burnout But Score Results

1. Set goals early and communicate them.

Planning ahead is key in maintaining productivity through the holiday stretch. Set your fourth-quarter goals early in the year and be sure team members are aware of them long before the festivities begin.

By doing so, you'll have set expectations in advance so that employees will know to plan ahead. It also sets the standard for the productivity level you're expecting even during the holiday season.  

2. Reward results not hours worked. 

You’ve given your team objectives to meet. If the output is consistent and deadlines are being met, reward your team for their labor by being flexible with work hours and time off.

When people are on vacation, respect their personal time. Make it known that team members are expected to finish their tasks according to the agreed-upon timeline. But don’t send unnecessary emails or add undue stress. Treating your team members as adults and let them know you trust them to follow through. Most likely, they won’t disappoint.

3. Plan around vacations. Don't limit them.

In a similar vein, managing work flow around employees' vacation days will let them take some needed time off without hampering office productivity.

At my company, Retention Science, I ask team members to submit their dates for time off, but only so managers can redistribute tasks as necessary before each person leaves. This helps keeps the business run smoothly even without all hands on deck.  

Related: Make Holiday Shenanigans Work for Your Bottom Line

4. Host company events. 

Staging company events can go a long way in keeping members of a team from feeling overworked and overstressed. My company coordinated a group archery lesson, held its first Pajama Friday and hosted a Thanksgiving potluck last month.

These kinds of events encourage camaraderie, build team mentality and boost spirits. With the company's offering ways to blow off steam like an in-office fort-building contest on a Friday afternoon, my team members can return to their tasks with renewed energy. 

5. Keep staffers motivated.

Inspire each team member to take ownership of his or her work. Highlight the impact an individual's contributions make toward company-wide goals to keep employees excited about their responsibilities.

I took this a step further by launching Retention Science University, an internal initiative that lets team members make presentations on a topic to the company's workforce. This promotes cross-departmental learning while encouraging team members to take pride in their roles. This, in turn, shows in the quality of their work, even during the busy holiday season. 

Although I personally favor embracing the holiday spirit, fourth quarter is too crucial a time for everyone to fully relax. Members of the sales team still need to meet their quotas. Those involved with marketing must generate brand awareness during this busy season. And the work never truly stops for the developers who power holiday campaigns for clients.

With advanced planning and effective communication, my company has been able balance work and celebration. I trust in members of my team to carry the momentum all the way through to the year’s end, so that the holiday season is truly a success.

Related: Surviving Fourth Quarter Madness -- How to Handle the Year-End Sales Crunch