Five reasons managers need to lighten up at Christmas

The few weeks leading up to Christmas can be a challenging time for managers. Employees are feeling disengaged and impatient for the holiday season to come 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 don’t seem as alert, are away from their desks for what seems like a long time or you have a niggling suspicion that they are spending valuable worktime doing their Christmas shopping on Amazon.

staff Christmas hats

But counter-intuitive though it may seem, actually encouraging a little fun and frivolity around Christmastime 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 goodwill in the leadup to the festive season:

1. It helps teams bond

Secret Santa, Christmas jumper days and decking the office with mistletoe and holly may be memories of Christmas past now that many of us are homeworking (or social distancing in the workplace), but Christmas-themed quizzes, films or family dinners are becoming the main topics of conversation among staff in the leadup to the festivities.

While Christmas chat may seem trivial when deadlines are looming, it is these fun, silly conversations that actually help people get to know their colleagues better and encourage the team to pull together. If the vibe 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: planning a virtual party when a face-to-face gathering isn’t practical, sending a card with a ‘thank you’ message, etc. All small but simple gestures that show people you appreciate 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 might become resentful and uncooperative. With many already finding juggling personal and work responsibilities more difficult due to the pandemic, being inflexible can only backfire.

If you make it clear that you are prepared to be flexible as long as your employees are, too (adjusting their working schedule to ensure they finish important projects on time), they should roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Communicate with your team on who can work when, and if possible, ask them to update their schedules in your HR software system. This will avoid any confusion or miscommunication among team members, and other departments will also know who is available to contact when.

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.’

5. It shows your staff you’re human

As a manager, sometimes it pays to let your guard down and show people you are human. Make sure you organise some kind of celebration for your team; it doesn’t have to be a time-consuming or expensive activity.

Think carefully about the format and timing so that everyone can be involved – often lunchtimes work better than evenings so that people don’t necessarily have to sacrifice their private downtime. 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.

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