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Under the mistletoe

Last updated: 10 May 2022

Christmas is upon us and for small business owners the working environment over the festive period can cause more of a headache than the morning after, without the over-the-counter hangover cure. Staff on wind-down, inter-office relationships formed following drunken office-parties and you are unable to stop yourself morphing into Scrooge as opposed to a jolly Santa, but how do you strike a healthy balance?

Any good boss knows that the key to prosperity throughout the year is down to motivated staff and motivated staff need to be happy staff. No other part of the year gives a business the opportunity to demonstrate their appreciation of hard work and ability to integrate with staff and enjoy a healthy dose of cheer than at this time. Employees expect lax rules, bonuses and a freebie party. As boss, you expect them to still put the work in and not embarrass themselves at the company ho-down. The key is compromise and to give a little while still keeping tabs of what’s going on.

Pay extra attention to office colds and flu and make sure no-one is particularly rundown. Illness is rife at this time of year but don’t put your employees on a guilt trip about inconvenient time off or they may be out the door come the New Year. Unhappy employees tend to wait until Christmas to see if they get a bonus and whether they do or don’t, after this is when they will start to look around.

Don’t be stingy – throw a party if you have enough people! Everyone wants to get dressed up, let their hair down and get to know fellow colleagues but remember, free bars often cause carnage so give out a few drinks vouchers instead to curb the more abusive members. If your company is really small there is no need to go mad – dinner and a few drinks on the company at a local bar or pub will give everyone the chance to wind down and have a bit of fun. Keep check of potential hazards with this scenario though. Banish mistletoe (and hopefully embarrassing office flings!), keep an eye on alcohol intake and provide transport to avoid drink driving. Also ensure that staff know what’s acceptable i.e.: work-relationship policies and any disciplinary action that might be taken if they misbehave, it is still considered work time after all.

The most important thing is that you show your appreciation of employees’ hard work throughout the year and reward them with a bit of a do and a bottle of drink to take home with them. Most important thing number two? Make sure that if you do choose a party or night out, do it on the last day of work because it can be pretty much guaranteed that there will be NO productivity the following day. Staff will laugh about how Trevor fell asleep in the corner into the New Year and even if it’s short term, they will be appreciative to the boss for the treat and thankful that they didn’t have to work the next day.

If your company expects staff to put in extra time of Christmas, make sure it’s noted and considered in future appraisals. Also, show your own face, as you are the one setting the example. Consider paying time and a half for shift work or extra hours as a gesture of your appreciation that staff will be giving up time normally spent with their families.

They say that if you give people an inch they will take a mile but I don’t agree. Give people and inch and they will come running back at a mile an hour so over the festive period, cut a bit of slack, let your staff have an extended lunch or leave early for last minute present buying and I’m sure you will find them putting that extra work in for you by way of a thank you. If all else fails – reach for the Alka Seltzer…

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