How to manage dips in productivity around the holidays

They’re bound to happen, but it’s important to communicate about them properly.

The holiday season is in full swing, and with it comes a month full of company gatherings, gift exchanges and parties. With all the social events going on this time of year, you might wonder how there’s time to get any work done! While it’s important to remain on task in our day-to-day roles, seasonal events and gatherings are also a major boost to company culture. If you’re noticing a slight dip in productivity at your organization around the holidays, it’s important to consider the overall reasons for the dip and how to best communicate around it.

Productivity downswings and cultural events

A prime example of a potential for productivity dips this holiday season is the 2022 FIFA World Cup. Across the globe, billions of workers have taken early lunches or set aside meetings to tune into the games being played in Qatar. In the United States, most of the matches are broadcast during work hours. And according to a report by Bloomberg, there hasn’t been a major detectable change in work getting done, but there have been some shifts in when it gets done:

As many commenters noted, even if banned from watching during business hours, many employees are likely to skirt such rules by livestreaming games on their work laptops alongside their Excel spreadsheets or Zoom calls, especially if they’re working remotely, or simply calling in sick. (That last strategy could put your job in jeopardy, employment law firms warn.)

Still, productivity-monitoring platform ActivTrak said its data shows employees continue to get work done at near-equal levels to non-World Cup weeks. Data from more than 4,500 US-based workers the day of the US versus Wales matchup, which was held on a Monday afternoon at 2 p.m. New York time, showed no clear departure from business as usual based on the measures watched by ActivTrak., another productivity-tracking system, has seen a major shift toward work getting done later in the day, even though there has been only been a nominal dip in overall activity so far during the tournament. The company has seen productivity surge between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. New York time, as most games are wrapping up, as well as a modest boost in evening activity. Hive, whose data points include creation and completion of tasks and other status updates, did note a 30% decline in activity across its workspaces as the US team played Iran.

There’s certainly something to be said for allowing employees to watch matches, especially if they’re presented as an opportunity for team bonding. If you’re back in the office, consider hosting a watch party for games in the office (potentially with manager signoff). If your teams are remote, you can encourage staffers to send pictures of them in their gameday gear to share on the company intranet. These seemingly small pushes are a great way to bring the passion of fandom into the workplace and show employees that the organization cares about more than just employee productivity and can go a long way toward building a positive culture.

Unifying the company during the holidays

Despite how busy the holiday season might seem for employees both professionally and personally, it’s also a good time for organizations to unify their employees through social gatherings. These can help employees decompress, but can also serve to bring employees together around the company mission. When the workforce sees themselves as aligned with their coworkers, the workplace is much more likely to be a positive, productive place.

Communicating expectations around deadlines and workloads

It’s no secret that everyone’s busy this time of year. People are consumed by family events, work parties, holiday shopping, and other trappings of the season. In addition, many employees schedule time off for the end of the year when things might be quieter around the office. In any case, it’s important for communications to recognize the causes of potential productivity dips and react with compassion and understanding.

To this end, comms should be tactful when addressing drops in productivity around the holidays. If there’s important work that needs to be done on a deadline, set expectations of how it should be attended to before a crisis occurs.  And if there are projects that can wait until the new year, allow them to wait until then. Crafting clear expectations around project prioritization at work will help ensure things stay on track for employees, but it can also set cluttered minds at ease and mitigate stress during this busy time of year. Most importantly, reminding employees that their contributions are valued this time of year can go a long way toward fostering goodwill and a positive environment.

Though it’s the most wonderful time of the year, it can also be a source of stress for many of us. If you’re noticing a slight drop in the clip at which you or your colleagues are getting things done due to all the other things going on in your life, take a step back. Remember that it’s not just you, and that you should be putting out a message of understanding and have faith that everything will get done on time.

Sean Devlin is an editor at Ragan Communications. In his spare time he enjoys Philly sports, a good pint and ’90s trivia night.

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