5 Ways to Keep Your Small Business Productive During the Holidays Without Being a Grinch

I Need a HolidayThe holiday train has left the station and we’re on the fast track to New Year’s. Your employees are jittery, your office is decorated in twinkle lights and glitter, and you’re trying to lay out objectives for the new year. All while making sure you arrive at your end-of-year destination on schedule.

And that's precisely when productivity starts to tank. We call it the December slump. 

Why December Is a Low Productivity Month

The December slump is a common problem for entrepreneurs for several reasons:

  • Distractions—Holiday happenings (travel plans, gift buying, menu planning, seasonal activities, school parties and programs) pull your employees in twenty different directions. It’s tough to stay focused when you’re wondering whether you remembered to buy Great Aunt Mabel a present or deciding what on earth to get her in the first place.

  • Vacations—Most of your workforce will be out of the office for at least a few days in December, and those who planned ahead and saved up PTO may be gone for a week or more. On top of that, you need a vacation too. When you take time off, you can (and should) give your employees a little extra leeway in terms of productivity.

  • New Year’s Resolutions—As the year winds down, most of us are thinking about what resolutions we’ll make on January 1st. And that means we’re probably putting off any real changes until that magic start-over date. It’s human nature to slack off a little bit in the days leading up to a new initiative, and that’s true at the office as well as the gym.

But productivity slumps in December aren’t necessarily a bad thing. January and February tend to be more productive months across the board (maybe because of all those resolutions, or maybe because we all tend to be more productive when it’s cold out). So a minor drop in productivity might not be a big deal.

5 Strategies for Keeping Your Small Business Productive During the Holidays

Still, if you trying to hit a quarterly or end-of-year goal, you want to make sure your employees don’t check out altogether.

So what can you do to keep them engaged?

  • Get employee input—Be up front with employees about the challenge to stay productive in December, and ask them for their ideas on staying on task. The more invested they are in the process, the more likely they will be to engage.

  • Set specific, measurable goals—Don’t just walk around and bark at everybody about staying on task. Give employees attainable goals and set milestone dates to measure progress.

  • Keep it festive—Don’t squelch your team’s holiday spirit. Intead, channel it by celebrating when goals have been reached and creating positive outlets for all that holiday cheer. Follow SHRM’s tips for creating inclusive holiday activities every employee can enjoy.

  • Leave work at work. Don’t expect employees to work at home or while they’re on vacation. That should be true year round, but especially during the holidays. Everyone needs a time to recharge and disengage from work, so don’t push for projects to be completed at the expense of family time.

  • Set employees up for success. What are the most frustrating parts of your employees’ jobs? Is it a printer that always jams? A difficult client? Struggling to reach sales goals when half the team is on vacation? Ask them, and then find ways to make those aspects of work a little easier. Give them the right tools for the job and step up to fill gaps when team members are out of the office so everyone can be successful.

Yes, December can be a difficult month to stay on track with productivity, but it’s also the month when your employees are looking forward to extra time with family, traditional holiday activities, and even the annual White Elephant Exchange (c'mon, you know you want the singing snowman).

Don’t be a Grinch this year. Give your team the support—and the downtime—they need to succeed. Then look forward to the renewed energy you’ll enjoy in January!


Need help with your holiday policies? Talk to your PEO! If you're thinking about partnering with a PEO in the new year, check out our PEO Matching Tool to find the right provider!