For most workers, December is the most hectic month -- professionally and personally. And when the holidays collide with Q4 deadlines, emotions tend to be mixed. About 51 percent of people say they're more cheerful at work this time of year. But 35 percent feel work-related pressure, according to a survey conducted by Accountemps, a finance-staffing firm.
It’s crucial to show employees your support and appreciation during the chaos of the season. Not only does it benefit their well-being, but also it boosts your bottom line. Joint studies by the Queens School of Business and Gallup found that organizations with low employee-engagement scores experienced 18 percent lower productivity, 16 percent lower profitability, 37 percent lower job growth and 65 percent lower share price over time.
If you take the time over the holidays to support your staff and show your investment in their happiness, they’ll feel like they have a real stake in your company's success. It’s a win-win, and it helps keep the holiday cheer going all year long. Here are a few simple but effective ways to show employees your gratitude.
Productivity Present #1: Give everyone a surprise day off.
Survey after survey shows that a vast majority of American workers aren't taking their paid time off (PTO). According to the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of Americans (55 percent) aren't using all their PTO. In 2018, U.S. workers failed to use 768 million days of PTO, a 9 percent increase from the year before. And those who are using vacation days are only spending a portion of them.
To me, the solution is pretty apparent: Demonstrate to your staff that taking time off is not only encouraged, but expected. One way to do this is to give surprise days off during the holidays. For example, if you close the office on Christmas Day, consider giving them the day before or after off, too. It's the gift they desperately want. The same Queens School of Business and Gallup study revealed that 17 percent of workers wished their companies would provide more PTO to alleviate year-end holiday stress.
Ample time off isn’t just a perk to attract potential hires; it’s a requirement for retention. Consider that nearly half of workers report suffering from burnout and feel they must work during a vacation or face an insurmountable workload upon return. It stands to reason that if you include rest and taking breaks as pillars of your company values, you'll have more productive workers -- and less turnover. Research finds that disengaging from work when you’re not on the job makes people more resilient, productive and engaged. Most employees report that after a vacation, they're excited to get back to work.
Productivity Present #2: Introduce fun team-building activities.
To get folks at Hint into the spirit of the season, our San Francisco office trims a Christmas tree and decorate cookies together. Sprucing up your workspace doesn’t have to cost a lot, and permitting employees to spend part of their workday getting into the holiday spirit -- perhaps by doing some arts and crafts -- is a great way to encourage everyone to take a break and bond.
A change of pace is proven to amp up innovation. Relaxing and daydreaming create alpha waves in the brain that spark creative insights and “aha” moments. Designing playful moments for your staff can make them more joyful, more interested in exploring new ideas and more committed to their jobs and their relationships with co-workers. One study from the University of Utah reported that a hike in nature while disconnected from all devices for four days led to a 50 percent spike in creativity.
Keep in mind: Forced fun isn’t fun. Don’t mandate that employees partake in holiday events. Give them the option to sign up for any activities. Small group events can be even better than having everyone on board. Intimate get-togethers allow staffers to bond more deeply with colleagues and get to know people in different departments.
Productivity Present #3: Throw an epic holiday party.
If you’ve got the budget for it, a fabulous holiday party demonstrates to employees just how much they mean to you. At Hint, we throw parties at our offices in both San Francisco and New York, and we try to make them as over-the-top as possible. This year, we booked Spin, a 6,000-square-foot ping-pong social club in Manhattan. In San Francisco, the fete is at Hotel Zephyr, a nautical-themed property, where we’ll enjoy ping pong and pool tables, plus delicious food from the local Mexican restaurant, Nopalito. We also usually give gifts to every employee to thank them for their hard work all year. Last year, we gave everyone a pair of Hint-branded Allbirds shoes.
A lively, casual gathering is the perfect setting for colleagues to get acquainted outside the office walls, let loose and feel a part of the brand family. But it's not so much what you do as how you do it. When you genuinely value your staff, and you make an effort, your appreciation shines through brightly.