Lessons for Leaders 35: How to Keep Employees Motivated Before Christmas

Dec 10, 2020 | Lessons for Leaders

How to Keep Employees Motivated Before Christmas

How do you prevent the pre Christmas slump? People are often de-motivated or distracted with xmas December is the shortest working month there’s the pressure to get things done before the  ‘big break’ If your people are already feeling isolated and disconnected how will that impact them when they’ve got the business shut down or time off over Christmas and new year.

How do you prevent the pre Christmas slump?

  • People are often de-motivated or distracted with xmas
  • December is the shortest working month there’s the pressure to get things done before the  ‘big break’
  • If your people are already feeling isolated and disconnected how will that impact them when they’ve got the business shut down or time off over Christmas and new year.
  • With the lack of connection, xmas parties and the stressful times – how do we keep engagement and motivation high?

This week on the podcast I dive into how we can

How to Keep Employees Motivated before Christmas

Although some of your staff may be winding down, others will be working frantically to make sure everything gets done before the break, dealing with a remarkable amount of pressure – no doubt not helped by their more relaxed colleagues.

It might sometimes seem as though pressure is actually making people more productive as holidays approach. Isn’t this a good thing – you might ask? Well, maybe not. They may be productive, but they may not necessarily be happy.

And if they’re not happy – what will they do?  Lose motivation.  Become unhappy, even look to leave – yes even with unemployment high that won’t stop them applying for other jobs.

I spoke to one company who had 3 resignations just last week.

An essential first step to ensuring your people remain motivated is understanding the pressures they’re facing – there’s more to holiday mode than you might think, particularly in December.

Staff aren’t just distracted by the fun of the festive season or rushing to get work done – there is a variety of anxieties and worries that can take hold at work all year round, but become increasingly pressing as the year comes to an end.

Employees are More Stressed in the run up to Christmas

Research finds that the Christmas period is often the most stressful for employees, and one survey in 2016 by Sodexo found that 23% of UK employees feel more stressed in the run up to Christmas.

Think about why that stress and pressure is there …

December is shortest working month so there is a pressure to get things done before the big break – there’s this enormous “finish” for Christmas and finish for the year, not to mention end of the quarter / end of year.

Then personally for them, there’s financial worries and pressure to be ‘the best’ Christmas and get all the gifts and things. 

All this can mean they’re losing sleep, coming to work tired and perhaps distracted,  this leads to presenteeism or absence.

All this has been around for employees every year in December, but after the year we’ve had this could be exacerbated by the worries and stress and pressure of distanced Christmas and who can go where in what Tier.

Consider The Impact of Winter Wellbeing on Motivation

On top of that, we can consider winter wellbeing and their physical health or ill health – with coughs, colds, flu – it’s talked about all the time during this pandemic – the affects of winter on health.

Illness caused by winter weather is a cause of workplace stress for 16% of UK employees according to the Office for National Statistics most recent report into sickness absence at work; coughs, colds and flu account for 26.2% of the 130 million-plus working days lost to illness each year – and these illnesses are particularly common in the winter.

Christmas Can Demotivate Employees

Research has found that almost half of the UK’s workers will go into work despite feeling unwell. An ill worker is definitely not a motivated worker and there’s a huge risk of illness spreading to others, knocking even more employees out of action for a few days.

A YouGov survey found that 21% of people (that’s one in five) dislike Christmas, while research elsewhere found that 54% of employees dread the office party.  Imagine what people will feel like with a pressure to join in the so-called fun activities.

How do we Keep Employees Motivated before Christmas?

Celebrating Success

We’re a nation brought up on being polite, don’t boast, be nice the other person, so when it comes to celebrating success it can feel a little boastful and big headed – but it’s important to ensure that achievements are recognised otherwise people become disengaged and unmotivated.

You can celebrate success and create a positive working environment by:

  • Continually praising and congratulating individuals during virtual team meetings
  • Internally publicising good work, for example, on the intranet
  • Sending a card or gift in the post – even if it’s a thank you note for a great piece of work, or finishing a project or delivering .. whatever.
  • Remember that fun is meant to be spontaneous, so yes you can plan some events and situations, but you can make people enjoy it. Remember the stats about the xmas party.  If you are going to celebrate anything other than success, ask them what they’d like.  I know you won’t get a fully consensus – gosh I remember trying organise xmas parties and events and it was never easy – but do ask people.

Even if people seem shy or bashful or even embarrassed, they will still get a hit of the reward chemicals that make them feel good about their achievements.

Offer Opportunities for Professional Development

There’s nothing worse than trying to do a job without the right skills or equipment.  Sometimes those skills might be personal skills or knowledge skills and if that’s the case then your employees will likely feel overwhelmed, stressed or undervalued.  That will definitely lead to motivation issues. 

Employers can fight against both these problems by ensuring that staff benefit from training and know-how

If you’ve already done great onboarding and induction plans (because that’s definitely the place to start) then you can:

  • Arrange remote training sessions to be given by senior staff or external providers – ask me about my training.
  • Ask team members to give a short session on a subject of relevance, for example, an industry update or a recent issue which they resolved
  • Provide mentors to junior staff

It is important that employers engender a team spirit and encourage their employees to build positive relationships with each other.

Although it is no longer possible for employers to host away-days or in-person events, employers can ensure their employees are happy

Enable Autonomy

It is important that employers give some autonomy to the employees.  Letting them have a sense of control over what they do and when they do it empowers them and motivates them to do the job.  It shows that you trust them to deliver.  Obviously if there’s been some micro-managing then that will need working on but they’re going to be more motivated and respond far better if you let do the job they need to do without breathing down their necks.

There’s nothing more than anyone wants right now than a sense of feeling in control.  This virus has taken the element of control away from all us, so giving a choice, control and a certain level of autonomy is a definite sure fire way to increase motivation.

Recognise Mental Wellbeing

Employers should recognise that the shift to home working has been, and continues to be, a stressful experience for many. Lack of room at home, children interrupting Zoom calls, dogs barking over conference calls, whatever the reason, life at the moment can be hard.

Employers need to make sure that they:

  • Ask staff what is going well, what is not and what they are struggling with.  That gives you a clear starting point for helping them in the right place to improve mental wellbeing and motivation.
  • Remind staff of any external resources which are available to them – many places are offering ‘drop in’ styles coaching sessions that are available ad-hoc and often with me / external providers – so talk to me if you want help with that.
  • Be flexible, to the extent that business needs allow, and understanding of individuals’ personal circumstances

Wellbeing Check In and Surveys

I keep saying this.

Do a survey, formally or informally.  To check in on them – although get the timing right.  A well set out survey with good questions can provide you with a wealth of information.

Ask on team calls / meetings how they are.  How they really are and if people are quiet, flippant, I’m fine, then call separately to check up on them.

Not everything will go perfectly. Some people will be critical. Solicit and welcome feedback. A critical component to engagement is employees feeling that they are heard. Soliciting feedback demonstrates your willingness to listen. Also, let employees know how you acted on their suggestions.

To finish up:

Remember that the dictionary defines motivation as a reason to act in a particular way. It is a desire to accomplish something.  One of the most important functions of management is to create willingness amongst the employees to perform in the best of their abilities.

It’s the little things that count. Let your staff know they are valued through simple gestures such as saying thank you or through small gestures such as buying some Christmas treats for the office.  Consider granting flexible working if people want time off for school events and other things.

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If you want to be increasing your performance so that you’re more resilient in these current times, so that you can focus easily, use tools and techniques to deal with all the current and unknown challenges then make sure that you either drop me an email to emma@emmalangton.com .   Or head over to my website  and either send me a email from there or book an appointment straight into my diary – saving all that to-ing and fro-ing that you get when we try to get space in people’s diary.

This post discusses: emmalangton, leaders, leadership, leadershipcoaching, lessons, motivation, wellbeing
Emma Langton

Emma Langton

Executive Leadership Coach

Emma hosts the Lessons for Leaders podcast. Each week she brings you lessons, learnings, tips and advice to enable you to lead with ease in business, without stress, doubt and overwhelm so that I help you to increase your performance, be resilient and thrive in life. Emma has been providing coaching, training and therapeutic support for executives since setting up her business in 2011. Prior to that she spent over 20 years with people at the top of national and multi-national training and communication businesses.


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