Allocating time to visit friends and family during the holidays isn't easy. Booking inopportune flight times to save a hundred dollars, starting a 10-hour drive in the heat of rush hour, and making the no-win decision about whose family gets more of you is exacerbated by a boss’s lack of strategic project planning. Luckily, work doesn't need to have this impact on holiday stress. This year, we can leave that to raucous debate about what "boofing" actually is.
Not all companies contribute to their employee's stress levels. Those that have exercised adequate time to plan, use the correct tools and built a culture founded in trust and dedication are not impacted by having a policy of flexible hours and location this time of year. However, deficiencies in any one of these makes it difficult to stand behind such a policy. This will have an outsized effect on your team by adding rigidity to their holiday schedules. This adds complexity to increased non-work responsibilities like booking and preparing for travel or planning to host in their own home.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
When businesses plan accordingly, they can simplify their employee’s holidays by simply giving them flexibility. If scheduled deadlines avoid proximity to holidays, face-time with colleagues and end of day deadlines become far less important. When planned accordingly, holiday-aware deadlines won't impact the P&L or achieving milestones. Resource managers will augment schedules so employees can make up any lost time in the weeks before or after the holiday. If given the chance, employees would jump at the opportunity to work 50 hours on the weeks adjacent to holidays to minimize holiday stress. When the latter is not an option, empirical observations show that employees work less during holidays and an equivalent amount time leading up to them, creating a suboptimal outcome for the company.
When companies are unable to provide flexibility during the holidays how do their teams cope? The answer is simple. Employees divert work time to solve their holiday responsibilities, which are more important as they involve family. Hunting for flight deals with limited flexibility takes longer, shopping at peak hours takes longer, and driving to grandma's on Wednesday afternoon takes longer. Until these items are "done" they are a constant distraction and point of stress which zaps productivity. Given modern tools and approach to office work, this can be easily avoided.
What should we do?
The solution is simple. Allocate more time to long-term project planning, think strategically about project start dates and agreed-upon deadlines and evaluate the impact on resource management. In other words, preemptively solve the resource problems we know surface during the holiday season. The result will be happier, more productive employees for the last two months of every year. And your employee’s New Year's resolutions won’t include finding a new job.