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How To Keep Employees Happy At Christmas

The run up to the festive season can be a strange time of year for businesses. Employers across the country usually find that in the weeks leading up to Christmas, many of their employees are distracted and don’t feel like coming to work.

After all, it’s all too easy to be distracted by the thought of a well-earned break and the chance to relax and unwind especially if there’s not much to do.

On the other side of the coin, there will also be other employees who are on that final push to achieve their end of year targets and their stress levels are rising.

So, what's the answer?

Breathing down your team's necks until 5:30pm on Christmas Eve might ensure all your work is done, but it'll also cause morale to sink like a stone. But you can't just sit back and put everything on hold to the new year either - there must be a balance!

Understanding the reasons behind your staff's stress or demotivation during the festive period will help you to formulate an effective reward and incentives plan that works best for your organisation.

This will be a familiar scenario for any employer or manager. December rolls around, and productivity seemingly grinds to a halt.

At some point during the second week of the month, or sooner if you’ve got an employee who’s over-eager with the office decorations, the festive sluggishness will set in.

People will be using up their holiday allowance, battling Christmas to-do lists, and generally slipping into the predictable holiday mode.

Holiday mode is a state of mind where things just don’t get done. Staff are winding down, avoiding taking on new work, and thinking about being elsewhere.

This sense of winding down isn’t only seen in the build up to Christmas, however. January has also been found to have the lowest percentage of tasks completed, with winter being the least productive season of the year.

In a survey of catering industry workers, for example, almost half of the respondents admitted to doing up to 20% less work in the last month of the year, with one in six saying it was as much as 30% less.

Another survey by Peldon Rose found 54% of employees say they felt stressed leading up to the holidays, with the key stressors being purchasing Christmas presents (56%), finishing work and projects (49%) and managing personal expenses (43%). On top of these usual pressures, many employees will be under additional financial strain this year due to reduced income or job security worries resulting from the global Covid-19 pandemic.

Combine these stats with the unfortunate fact that December is often the shortest working month of the year for businesses – with bank holidays, staff holidays and festive shutdowns – and your relatively unmotivated team has even fewer man-hours than usual to get their work done.

Money is always tight at Christmas; however, with many employees seeing their incomes affected by the pandemic this year, Christmas is likely to be even more financially burdensome than usual.

Back in 2018, many saw some good news for workers thanks to a slight rise in annual salaries; with research by the Office of National Statistics finding the average wage was just over £29,000 per year.

Typically, this leaves actual take-home pay at around £1,700 per month; but over the festive period, families with children spend on average around between £1,000 and a staggering £2,700 on Christmas - that's well over half of December's wages!

The same research also found that 57% of people found they overspent at Christmas, racking up an average overspend of over £150.

Many businesses may be ditching the annual bonus in favour of a more well-rounded recognition program, but for many employees at organisations around the UK, the end-of-year bonus can be the difference between a comfortable or cost-cutting Christmas.

It’s the most important part of the festive period for 39% of UK employees* because of just how much of an impact it can have.

Research has found that 38% of employees want rewards that make them feel valued (compared to just 9% who are either looking for something fun or something that makes them more productive) *, while 55% of employees would feel more valued if they received a non-financial reward.

So, the importance of finding out what your employees want beyond a few extra numbers on their payslip should be clear.

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