Five Tips for a Productive Workplace During Your Holiday Absence

Don Tennant
Slide Show

10 Steps to Improve Productivity

Tips to help improve your productivity while reducing your stress.

It's no secret that a lot of organizations lose productivity during the holiday season, but there's nothing that says it has to be that way. Rather than acquiesce to the notion that the productivity clock will stop in your absence, why not do what you can ahead of time to prevent that?


If you still have the better part of this week to work with before you head out, make that time count. Here are five tips from Jordan Cohen, an expert in employee productivity at PA Consulting Group, to help ensure that your office keeps humming while you're away:


  • Start preparing now. Meet with your staff to discuss what your team should focus on throughout the holiday season/month. Break those activities into weekly or daily (as appropriate) tasks. Verify with your staff that there's a crystal clear understanding across the entire team. Try a dry run. Ask your team to operate as if you are on vacation. Hold a meeting after the dry run to see how it went. Discuss what went well and why. Discuss the obstacles they experienced and why. Install procedures to address obstacles. Why it works: Telling your staff what you expect to be accomplished while you are on vacation is helpful but not as good as showing them. Conducting dry-runs not only translates the communication into action, it also gives your staff the confidence in how to handle what is expected from them.
  • Prepare for possible situations. Prepare some scenarios you think might possibly emerge over the holiday season. Meet with your team and role play how they would handle each situation while you are on vacation. Why it works: Conducting role-plays allows you to prepare your staff for situations that might occur. Even if they confront a situation you have not role-played, it will be close enough to one of your role-play scenarios and they will be able to adapt.
  • Use "Delay Delivery" option. Remember that the behaviors you model are often the way your employees will behave. If you work on the weekend or holidays, your employees will feel obliged to respond. If you feel compelled to work and write emails over the holiday, then use the "delay delivery" option in your email system. This way you can clear your to-do list on your own time but deliver your emails/responses/requests at some point after the holiday. Why it works: One of the most effective tools we have as managers is our own behavior. If your employees only get absolutely critical emails from you on the weekends or holidays, over time that is how they will behave.
  • Take the long view. If you are concerned that your staff may stand idle a few days after you leave for vacation, start thinking in terms of what needs to be accomplished by the end of January. Expand your planning and preparation from Tip One (above) through the end of January to ensure all the work gets done over the planning period. Why it works: When you expand the time horizon, and therefore the amount of work that needs to be accomplished, your staff will be forced to thoughtfully plan the tasks and activities over the holiday period and beyond. This planning ultimately requires a list of what needs to be accomplished on a daily or weekly basis. You can then ensure that your staff is properly resourced to accomplish the work.
  • Be clear to the team. Let your staff know that you are not planning to work over the holiday. This is best done in a group meeting so everyone can hear the same message at the same time. If your staff has questions, your entire team can hear the questions and your answer. Nominate someone either on your staff or another manager to be available if your staff needs assistance. Outline clearly the critical situations under which they should contact you. Make sure your staff and nominee have a clear understanding of these critical situations. Why it works: There is no substitute for being clear about your expectations. Communicating to your entire staff at the same time eliminates the misinterpretations that happen across several meetings. If you are not clear about your expectations, you will be disappointed every time.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Dec 19, 2011 3:50 PM Richard Rosen Richard Rosen  says:

The concern about productivity losing out to the holidays becoming a quasi-vacation are well founded. I'd like to address ensuring continued productivity from a technology view, one that works not only during a holiday period, but is always on.

This solution is monitoring employee computer activity. First off, the deterrent effect is incredible. Companies tell me that 80-90% of off-task activity ceases when employees know there is a system in place to monitor compliance with Acceptable Use Policy. This is the way it ought to be: employees self-regulating  their behaviour. As a department manager of a FTSE 100 company told me, his objective for monitoring is "to take a good employee and make him better". 

But monitoring is much more than putting a stop to unacceptable behaviours. It provides insight into employee work so quality can be improved. I'd summarize the benefits as improved productivity and quality of work, data protection, regulatory compliance and reduced legal risk.

As you can see, I'm a cheerleader for this technology solution after hearing from hundreds of businesses and government organizations how they use it.

Enough said; you get the point.

Dec 19, 2011 7:13 PM R. Lawson R. Lawson  says:

I'll share my plan - keep on working   Minimal time off.  Of course, if you're a consultant you get paid for every hour worked so I'm OK with that.


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