Ahh, the holiday season. Between Hanukkah, Christmas, New Year's Eve and other holidays, this time of year brings out feelings of feelings of joy and serenity as holiday plans and family fill the near future. For those of us in the startup world however, December and January can unintentionally bring about feelings of stress. Whether it’s your busiest time of the year or you’re working hard to keep momentum going into the new year, navigating the holiday season can be especially tricky for any startup.
As an entrepreneur you want to succeed and you’ll do whatever it takes, even if that means missing another holiday party or covertly checking your emails during the New Year's Eve countdown. And that’s all well and good, but it’s important to remember that those around you may need a bit of leeway during these holiday months. There are always goals to reach and customers to attend to, but maintaining a healthy and happy team through December and January will be the key to your success in the coming months.
If you don’t want to lose the talent you’ve worked so hard to find, here are a few tricks to help you navigate the delicate world of managing a startup team this holiday season.
1. Maintain the culture you’ve built.
A surefire way to reduce team morale and make employees feel underappreciated during the holidays is to neglect the culture you’ve promised from the beginning. At Tack, we’ve worked hard to create a culture where successes -- big and small -- are acknowledged, transparency is valued and above all else, time is not wasted. Maintaining these values during even the most chaotic of times is what makes for a strong company. So although the inevitable stress of the holiday season is sure to bring about challenges all its own, remember to look to the culture you’ve built, and you should be able to turn the mood around pretty quickly.
2. Allow for flexibility.
This is especially important during the holidays. No matter what sector of business you work in, people seem to find an especially deep meaning to the holiday season. It’s a time people feel the need to reconnect with friends and family, so forcing employees to work normal hours can cause resentment and even damage the company's culture. Provide some freedom and let them work irregular hours or even from home. Be clear that while flexibility is encouraged so employees can make the most of the holidays, accountability is still required. You can’t stop working altogether during the holidays, but you can find a way to maintain balance and flexibility.
3. Promote and encourage healthy living.
Sustaining one’s health is important all through the year but perhaps even more so during the unavoidably stressful holiday season. Something that I’ve done to promote health and team building is creating a company-wide fitness challenge. Each of the team members has a “Tack” Fitbit that they use to set individual daily goals. Being a rather competitive bunch, we’re all working hard each day to meet (or exceed) our daily goals -- as bragging rights for the day goes to the champion. In addition, we’ve created company-wide challenges like “Most Improved” and “Most Active” to really spark involvement. Fun activities like this not only improve our physical health, but they also keep things exciting and light during a particularly busy time.
4. Plan for the future now.
Although it might seem counter-productive to staying in the holiday spirit, I’ve found that it’s important to start planning ahead for next year. Dedicate one day for an off-site meeting where you can map out the upcoming year, set short-term and long-term goals (both company-wide and on an individual basis), and discuss and celebrate the milestones of the last year. Finding the time to bring the entire team together for these out-of-office meetings not only helps to boost morale, but it also aligns the different departments and gets us focused on the common vision for the year ahead.
Related: How to Banish Holiday Stress