The Price of Christmas Break
As the holiday season draws closer, even the most hard-working of employees seem to slacken up a bit. The festive glittery and tempting goodies are surely to blame. In all honesty, it's not unnatural for workers to relish this much-awaited, popular time off. They are very much entitled to a sizable Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve. But for employers, it's a slightly different story.
Dwindling Productivity - A Month-Long Concern
The period around the winter holidays is known to be the most unproductive time of the year. Back in 2017, the B2B HR consultant company Peakon surveyed about 2000 workers in the UK and found out that almost 60% of the workers were already slacking off by mid-December. Unsurprisingly, a study carried out a long way back in 2005 also painted a similar "drop-in-productivity" picture, revealing how almost 50% of the workers did 10-20% less work and 69% were reported to be less productive during December.
The challenge doesn't end here. When employees return to work after the break, they still bring leisurely feelings with them. Of course, workers take time to reset and recuperate, but for businesses, this could mean lost hours and money — worse when the productivity drop extends to the forthcoming weeks.
Again, while it's not unnatural for employees to take some time to reset, employers must be careful in noticing how the employees behave after returning from their break. Because we aren't talking about 5-6 days here — the winter holiday effect is more often a month-long thing. In essence, employers must find ways to curb the downward spiral - although, at the same time, sustain a healthy culture.
But before we share some tips for employers, let's first compare productivity before and after the winter holidays.
Survey Results Reveal a Drop in Productivity
We surveyed several of our large clients to understand how the productivity gap is visible in their firms. For quantifying this productivity gap, we noted the active time, inactive time, time spent on applications, time spent on websites, top categories of visited websites, and top used unproductive sites. All these details were plotted against four weeks - starting from mid-December 2022 up until mid-January 2023.
Here are the major findings from the survey:
50% of the clients recorded a drop in Active Time between December 12 and December 23.
50% of the clients recorded a drop in Active Time (time when an employee actively works on their computer) in the first week of January when compared to the last week of December. This post-holiday lethargy was very prominent for 25% of the clients, with the average Active Time falling by 32%.
During the same time, more than 35% of the clients reported an increase in the time spent on mobile applications. Comparatively, more than 60% of the clients reported an increase in the time spent on websites.
YouTube was the Top Used Unproductive Site, with 37.5% of the surveyed clients visiting it. It was followed by Facebook, with 25%.
Surprisingly, more than 70% of the clients reported a very nominal decrease in Inactive Time during the second week of January - with the average Inactive Time dropping by 4%.
These trends and stats lead us to the inevitable conclusion that the productivity drop during pre- and post-winter holidays is a concern for businesses. It also shows how the productivity drop during the holiday period prevails for a month.
So, let's get to the point - here are some tips for businesses on how to manage and curb this productivity gap, address employee fatigue, and sustain a healthy culture.
How Can Businesses Address this Drop in Productivity
In our survey, we questioned our clients about the steps they took when they found out about the drop in productivity. Unsurprisingly, owing to the holiday move, most of them didn't take any specific action or perhaps didn't do anything about it right away. While this is understandable, it's not difficult to assume how the slackening can extend beyond what's reasonable for businesses to accommodate.
So, as a leader, here's what you can do:
Target the Low-Hanging Fruit First Encourage employees to take up less complicated tasks when they return. There's no need to go all out here - it's fine to start small and easy. Maybe get them to do something that requires much less thinking and is more routine.
Introduce Gamification Gamification is an effective way to encourage employees to work harder and perform better. Easier said than done, though. In this case, you should think of some creative ways to feed into their competitive streaks and the natural motivation that comes with it.
Require Them to Collaborate Another great way is to get them to work collaboratively. Getting employees to work together is a great way to stoke the competitive spirit. It also forces them out of their comfort zone and calls for more than just "going through the motions."
Get Them to Benchmark In order to get them to think about the time they're spending, introduce a formal benchmarking system. This way, they'll come to know where they stand as compared to others in the company. It will also act as a motivator in itself.
Keep Monitoring Their Activities Of course, you'd only be able to improve the process when you have the data to back it up. Regularly monitor the employees' activities, and make sure you observe them on the job. This way, not only are you able to keep track of their productivity, but you're also able to understand the real-time detriments to it.
Pursue Servant Leadership The most important thing a leader can do in this case is to show the employees their value. It's important to make them understand that they are key elements to the company's success and you're on their side. Engage with them, conduct one-to-one mentoring sessions if possible, and develop a constructive feedback loop.
The Bottom Line
Of course, the price for low productivity can be steep for businesses. This is especially true when the winter holiday effect spreads from one week to another and becomes a regular phenomenon. The good news is that there are ways for businesses to cope with this effect and sustain a healthy culture at the same time.
In fact, the holiday productivity drop didn't spare us from taking a look at our own business productivity. "We have a system, everyone knows, and everyone works, but our productivity as a whole has decreased by 5-10%. But we treat it normally; people are preparing for the rest; this is normal for the team," says the CEO of CleverControl. But we have been quick to react to the situation, and that's what matters to keep the bottom line strong.