In the modern business world, it’s easy to let work time slip into off time. The advent of the pandemic encourages many businesses to try remote working. The expectation to be “always on” can be draining. Simply put, it’s easy to work too hard too often. And this is especially the case during the holiday season.
The holidays are a great time to step away from work, relax, and connect with loved ones. But just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean that clients’ needs go away. You and your team may still feel pressure to get work done, even when it’s time to relax.
While it’s tricky to balance the holiday needs of your team and your clients, it is possible. You just need to be proactive about it. So here are four ways you can do just that by planning in advance.
1. Establish Common Values and Expectations
As a leader, it’s easy to assume you know what everyone wants and needs. But your assumptions might not always line up with reality. That’s why it’s important to have a conversation with your team and your clients about their holiday expectations. Here, you’ll be able to establish the deliverables and behaviors expected or not expected throughout the season. And these expectations are dependent upon what people value.
With your team, the conversation might start simply by asking what their values and expectations are. While most people will want to take time off, some will be okay working a bit more than others. Some people highly value family and rest time, while others are more focused on building their careers. Get a sense of where your team is before you share your own perspective.
Your own perspective will be influenced heavily by your values and the expectations of your clients. Depending on your industry, you may have more or fewer holiday business demands. So reach out to your clients and find out what deliverables they expect from you over the season. You can compare this with what your team is asking for and negotiate a resolution that works best for most people. This resolution will never be perfect, but it will be better than making decisions without this level of intentionality.
2. Schedule Important Dates
Once you’ve deliberated with your team and clients about their respective values and expectations, it’s time to translate that into reality. Because it’s one thing to talk about lofty goals and ideas and another to act on them. One of the best ways to make sure everyone is on the same page is to use a shared online calendar. There, you’ll be able to make everyone’s expectations more visible.
This is especially helpful for diverse teams with different ethnicities and religious backgrounds. While many cultures celebrate end-of-the-year holidays, and exact days these holidays fall on can vary from religion to religion and culture to culture.
For example, Hanukah is over a week-long, whereas Kwanzaa falls between Christmas and New Year’s. So have your team list their priority days on the Calendar — days that they 100% will be gone and cannot be bothered about work. That way, you can adapt workflow and deliverables around those days and have individual teams adjust accordingly.
Likewise, establish concrete dates of importance with your clients. Some might also prioritize taking time off at the end of the year. This kind of client will have less demand on you to deliver during the holidays, while others have their peak business season. You’ll be able to compare these dates with the needs of your team and flesh out a schedule. It may take more work upfront, but you and your team will be able to enjoy the season while still meeting deadlines.
3. Work Hard, Play Hard
With values and expectations set on both sides, it’s time to get to work. A consequence of these proactive conversations is that your team may need to work longer and harder in the short term. While this isn’t a guarantee, one reason that work can spill into holiday breaks is that teams don’t plan proactively. Clients may push for more deliverables earlier once they know your team will be relatively unavailable during the holidays. And that’s okay, it just means it’s time to get down to business.
In fact, by time blocking effectively, you may potentially increase productivity and revenue for the winter quarter. Both your clients and your team may feel more motivated to accomplish their goals before the holidays finally arrive. So break up your team’s projects into clearly identifiable and actionable chunks and get them started. Check in regularly, but not too often, to see how realistic their goals are to accomplish and adjust accordingly.
If you can, make sure you have your values and expectations conversation earlier in the year than later. If this is the first time you’re having such a proactive intentional conversation, resolving various needs will take time. As the winter holidays largely fall in December, aim to start this conversation in October or even later in September. It can make a big difference in the way you conduct your operations for an entire quarter.
4. What Not To Do
With all the business in the holidays, new initiatives can feel enticing. These initiatives may be attractive to clients at the moment, but it’s important to save them for the new year. Because your team is already working towards a more fulfilling and enjoyable holiday season, they may feel overwhelmed with new kinds of work. Ultimately, winter initiatives and new product launches can lead to burnout and unfulfilled promises. Instead, try to plan for them in advance during the spring and summer months next year.
Speaking of burnout, with all the work you’re doing to meet everyone’s needs, it can be easy to forget your own. Even though you’re leading a team, you’re still human. And the best leaders are ones that can take care of themselves in a truly healthy way. Because by understanding your own needs as a leader, you’ll be able to more effectively address and care for the needs of your team.
The final thing not to do is upend all the proactive work you’ve done with your team over the months. By asking your team what’s important for them, you’ve displayed that you care for and prioritize their wellbeing. Your team trusts you, and it’s important not to violate that trust. Again, the holidays can get busy, and endless client requests may start to pile up. This will take deft perception and social navigation, but it will pay off in the end.
Celebrate and Stick to the Plan!
So you’ve set expectations, schedules, and your team has worked hard to meet established deadlines. The holidays have finally arrived, and it’s time to celebrate! It can be nice to throw your team a small party to celebrate their accomplishments. They’ll enter the season more relaxed and assured, knowing their team leader considers their needs.
Now, it’s important to stick with the plan you’ve established. While dire needs may arise and adaptability is required, it can be good to maintain the course. Have a meeting after the holidays to check in with your team and clients to see what worked and didn’t work with them. You can adapt for the next season as necessary. People will appreciate feeling heard and respected and will want to continue working with you in the long run.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by JESHOOTS.com; Pexels; Thank you!
My name is Angela Ruth. I aim to help you learn how Calendar can help you manage your time, boost your productivity, and spend your days working on things that matter, both personally and professionally. Here's to improving all your calendars and becoming the person you are destined to become!