3 Workplace issues to watch for during the holidays

November 25, 2019

The fourth quarter can be a time of celebration and success for many businesses. As companies grow, it can also be a time of greater stress and lower productivity. Let’s take a look at three common workplace issues during this festive time of year and how your company can avoid common pitfalls.

The Ghost Town Conundrum

The elevator dings, opens, and no one is inside. A wad of crumpled post-it notes flutters in the breeze across an empty parking lot. Phones ring, triggering automated notices that the inbox is full and can’t accept new voicemails. Dueling email vacation responders trigger a chain of messages between two nearly sentient software programs that no one will read for two weeks. A fluorescent light flickers dimly in the deserted breakroom.

Sounds scary, right? Well, it’s not Halloween, it’s just the end of the year.

You don’t have to allow year-end PTO to gut your office for extended periods of time. But, to prevent the problem you must take a proactive approach to paid time off tracking, requests, and holiday expectations.

Paid time off that doesn’t roll over to the next calendar year is a contributor to this problem. People often see the holiday season as an ideal time to use accumulated PTO. So prevalent is this tendency, there are certain days late in the year when many businesses simply shut down. Such extended periods of missed productivity can have a negative impact on the overall profitability of the company. Getting everyone back and working at full team speed takes time. Your best defense is to be proactive in establishing policies and expectations around time-off requests. Companywide policies related to payroll administration and paid time off accrual can help prevent work stoppages. 

The Scrooge Effect

A festive holiday gathering should be something your leadership team organizes annually. Year-end celebrations give long-term employees something to look forward to throughout the year. Celebrations can also enhance corporate culture and help with employee retention.

Here are some ideas to get your party planning team started:

  1. Charity Work: Many companies choose a local charity like a thrift store or soup kitchen to support with volunteer hours. This type of effort requires more logistical planning than some of the other items on the list, but, aligns nicely with the giving spirit of many holiday traditions.
  2. Potlucks and Food Drives: Chances are, there are great cooks working for you who would love to share some of their favorite recipes with their colleagues. Pair the potluck meal with a canned food drive. This allows you to feed your staff and help feed the greater community as well.
  3. Planning Party: This idea may work better with a smaller staff or leadership team. The basic premise is to order crowd pleasing food, such as pizza or Chinese take-out, and brainstorm ideas for the next year. This pairs a festive environment with goal setting and an open dialogue for progress. You get productivity and leisure together in one event. The key here is to make the event as entertaining as possible so that it doesn’t feel like work.

There are additional event ideas that may work better for specific industries or fields. Here are some examples:

  1. Tech companies: Host an old school LAN party with video games. Who doesn’t love a round of Unreal Tournament or Mario Kart?
  2. Law Firms or other professional environments: Plan a formal dinner party with cocktails. Use this as an opportunity to schmooze clients or high-end talent. Combine the evening with an awards ceremony to promote prestige around the office.
  3. Advertising or marketing agencies: Organize contests and games that encourage creativity. This type of company thrives on innovation and creative thinking. Make this event a fun way to allow people’s hidden talents to shine.

The Foe of Festivity

Everything is going along great until suddenly it isn’t. There is a dark specter that occasionally looms over festive employee interactions. The risk of unwanted sexual attention or outright sexual harassment is a real threat. These prohibited activities sometimes increase during the holiday season. More than 7,600 sexual harassment complaints were filed in 2018 with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), resulting in more than $56.6 million in settlements. According to a recent CBS News article, some employees may perceive that holiday parties create a situation where normal workplace rules and norms don’t apply. Proactive policy development, awareness, and training can help curb this behavior before the  fourth quarter begins. Taking an early approach to event etiquette and corporate harassment policies can have a lasting impact.

We can help.

Employers that offer professional development opportunities, hire internally, carefully cultivate their company culture, and layer accountability through training often find themselves in a position to build on past success with an eye toward the future. Management training and succession planning can benefit an organization for many years to come. Our experienced team of HR professionals can help managers unlock the hidden potential for staff in surprising ways. At SourcePointe, we utilize our industry experience to provide you with a multitude of customizable HR services, support, and solutions. All so your business can do one thing – more business. We’ll provide tailor-made solutions that fit your company’s needs while providing a solid return on your investment that pays off immediately – and for many years after that.

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