The few weeks leading up to Christmas can be a challenging time for managers. Employees are going stir-crazy with all the seasonal celebrations and it can be hard to ensure people keep their foot on the gas.

If you’re under pressure to keep productivity high, it’s difficult not to get irritated when people stumble in late after the night before, take increasingly long lunch hours or spend valuable work-time doing their shopping on Amazon.

But counter-intuitive though it may seem, actually encouraging a little fun and frivolity at Christmas can help to build team spirit, while still ensuring the important work gets done.

Here are five reasons why managers need to take the Scrooge hat off and spread a little good-will in the lead-up to the festive season:

1. It helps teams bond

Secret Santa, Christmas jumper days and decking the office with mistletoe and holly may seem trivial when deadlines are looming. But it is these fun, silly activities that actually help people get to know their colleagues better and encourage the team to pull together. If the atmosphere is jolly, employees are much more likely to help their colleagues out and much less likely to get irritated with each other when the pressure is on.

2. It makes people feel appreciated

Sometimes it’s the little things that make people feel appreciated. Mince pies for staff to have with their coffee, a chocolate treat on their desk, an office advent calendar where everyone takes a turn, a card with a ‘thank you’ message inside. All small but simple gestures that show people you are appreciating their efforts at a busy time of year. They cost little, but can go a long way.

3. It improves productivity

If people feel they are not ‘allowed’ to indulge in the festivities they will become resentful and uncooperative. They will waste valuable time grumbling about why they can’t accept the invite to go to another department’s Christmas do or why they can’t take an early lunch to avoid peak time in the shops. If you make it clear that you are prepared to be flexible as long as they are too (perhaps stay late to catch up time, or finish an important document at home), they will roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Give people the time to do the things they want to do and the evidence is they will repay you by being doubly focused and productive when they are back at their desk.

4. It builds engagement

Employee engagement is for life, not just for Christmas – but allowing people to let their hair down during the festive season will help you build valuable brownie points for the year ahead. Create a ‘nice warm feeling’ at Christmas and staff will remember it the next time you need them to pull out the stops. As the famous saying goes, “… people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (writer Maya Angelou)

5. It shows staff you are human

As a manager, sometimes it pays to let your guard down and show people you are human. Be understanding if someone is late back from lunch because they’ve had to stand in a huge queue to get this year’s ‘must-have’ toy. If business needs allow, let people come in a bit later so they can be at home for an important delivery. Make sure you organise some kind of celebration for your team, even if it’s a simple and inexpensive event. Think carefully about the format and timing so that everyone can be involved – often lunchtimes work better than evening so that people with caring responsibilities don’t have to make complicated arrangements and those with long journeys can get home safely and easily. Above all, don’t be ‘bah humbug’ about it all – join in with the celebrations and use the opportunity to cement relationships with your team.


You might be interested in reading: How to avoid Christmas leave conflict

Erika Lucas author image

Erika Lucas

Writer and Communications Consultant

Erika Lucas is a writer and communications consultant with a special interest in HR, leadership, management and personal development. Her career has spanned journalism and PR, with previous roles in regional press, BBC Radio, PR consultancy, charities and business schools.