5 things you must do before closing for Christmas

Whether your business is closing its doors completely or your staff are taking staggered leave, chances are the Christmas and New Year period will disrupt your normal working hours in some capacity.

So, with just a few days left until Father Christmas starts packing up the sleigh, it’s time to ensure you have ticked the following things off your work to do list.

  1. Check your commitments to your employees

Do you know if you can force an office shut down? Do you have to pay your employees during a shut down? The Fair Work infoline receives all these questions and more in the lead up to Christmas and has devised this handy FAQ guide. In addition it’s also a good idea to check the rules around public holidays, whether you’re closing the office or not.

  1. Decide how available you will be (& stick with it)

According to a new study by the Harvard Business Review only 14 per cent of managers and seven per cent of senior leaders completely switch off when they go on holiday. And the research shows how much this can erode a company culture, with a sinister trickle-down effect in which company employees don’t feel as valued or cared about. Companies that don’t support and encourage their staff to go offline when on holidays are also more likely to bear the financial burden of higher turnovers. In fact, a whopping 40 per cent of employees at companies that don’t support a total holiday switch-off are looking for a new job, or planning to start looking in the next 12 months. How you – as the manager – behave and communicate while on holidays will have a profound influence on the expectations felt by your staff. If you have to work while on holidays then the Australian HR Institute recommends scheduling it for a set time and communicating this clearly to your employees so they understand the circumstances.

  1. Clarify expectations of the office closure

Following on from the above, encouraging staff to relax and switch off over their holidays has to be followed through with action. Good ideas are often generated when you are distracted, relaxed or exercising – so it’s highly likely your employees may come up with some gems while they’re at the beach, painting the shed or going for a long bike ride during their time off. Recognising this potential before the break and encouraging staff to make a note of any work-related ideas, thoughts or information to share once work resumes will help nip any unnecessary emails in the bud.

  1. Hold an office clean-up day/hour/afternoon

While a messy desk may encourage a creative mind, taking the opportunity to finish the year with an office clean-up is not only a great way to declutter but also ensures you and your team will start 2018 in a fresh working space without the detritus of this year’s unread newspaper articles, old memos and, most importantly, the smell of that four-week old tuna sandwich leaking from the fridge. If appropriate, this could also be time to encourage your staff to personalise their office space, which could lead to improved concentration and productivity.

  1. If the office re-opens before you return, trust your staff to handle it

Linking with the third point, above, taking time off work allows for two key actions to take place:

  1. It allows you to demonstrate to your staff that you trust them; and
  2. It gives staff the chance to step up and be accountable for decisions they may not usually have to make.

As every confident manager knows, there are many roads to the final destination – ie. there is not usually only one correct answer or decision. Taking holidays but then stepping in immediately as something goes wrong indicates you have not provided the leadership, planning and management before going on leave (and potentially also that your recruitment process needs work).

Trusting your team and understanding they may make different, but not necessarily wrong decisions, is a crucial factor to building and retaining satisfaction in the workplace. An anecdote by Deloitte Consulting CEO Jim Moffatt, as reported in the Harvard Business Review article, highlights the benefits that occur when a manager places trust in their employees:

“A colleague and friend replied to Jim’s email with a note advising him to trust that he had hired the right people and given them the proper strategic direction, and there should be no need to send emails while he was on vacation. If he hadn’t, a few emails would not fix what was wrong.

“Today, Moffatt is among the converted. ‘You’ll be amazed at what you can do when you’re unplugged—and what your people have accomplished when you plug back in. I can personally attest, you’ll be a more confident and better leader because of it’.”