- Research has found that productivity starts to dip in late November and doesn’t recover until January.
- David Powell, President at Prodoscore, which provides data-driven productivity insights, offers tips on how to energize employees while keeping the holiday spirit alive.
- From prioritizing your to-do lists, to abolishing ‘busywork’ and rewarding accomplishments with flexibility, these tips will help you and your team power through December.
(Almost) everyone struggles with finding enough motivation to work during the holiday season. Many argue that productivity begins to plummet during the week of Thanksgiving, and data from Prodoscore has found that productivity levels dip significantly during November and December and those levels do not recover until January.
While our minds may be wandering to get-togethers, travel, and the overall end of year festivities, the reality is that business must go on (literally and metaphorically) speaking. However hard that may be.
Allwork.Space spoke with David Powell, President at Prodoscore, about productivity dips during the holidays and what employers can do to energize employees while keeping the holiday spirit alive.
Allwork.Space: Why does productivity dip during the holidays? Do you have any interesting data points you can share with us?
David Powell: Our data shows that productivity takes a big dip after Thanksgiving and doesn’t recover until the first full week of January, after New Year’s.
I think, across all non-retail businesses, the holidays are simply slower. More people are taking off, your customers are taking off, and the volume of work simply goes down. In the past 5 years or so, you have seen some companies stop trying to fight it and simply embrace it.
I know of several large companies that simply shut down, except for customer critical functions, the two weeks that include Christmas through New Year’s. To me, that makes a lot of sense. Instead of managers being frustrated at the lack of productivity and having wrong expectations, I think it is better to simply embrace it.
Again, our data shows that not a lot of work is getting done during that time anyway, so you aren’t really giving that up!
Allwork.Space: Do productivity levels in January help make up what was lost in productivity during the end of the year?
I think it does.
Again, I think the overall volume of work is down in December, so I see people compressing that work into the first 15-20 days of December and then either taking actual PTO or just doing less during office hours.
There is a book I really like called Essentialism. In this book, the author challenges the assumptions about the need to get everything done. Instead, he focuses on the idea that we should get the right things done, the right way, at the right time.
I’m not sure a lot of work gets pushed into January, what I would argue is that people simply do the essential things in December and let those non-essential things either carry over to January or maybe some of those non-essential things simply didn’t need to be done after all!
Allwork.Space: What can employees do to keep their productivity levels up during the holiday season?
I’m a big believer in the simple to do list. But, I’m also a big believer that there is a process to a good to-do list.
First, jot down all the things you want to get done in December, both personal and professional. Make one big list. Then, go through and designate the personal items with a P and the work items with a W.
After you do that, go through and put 1s next to the most important items, both personal and work. Then, go through and do the same with a second level priority and put a 2. Then, the lowest priority items should get a 3.
At this point, you should have all your December items into three priority buckets also categorized by work and personal. Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. Put work stuff on one side and personal stuff on the other. Then, copy your prioritized list over to this sheet of paper.
The other trick, that works well for me, is to designate time for the tasks that are prioritized as a 1. Block off time on your calendar for both work and personal items and make sure you have designated time on your calendar for all the priority 1 items.
This way, you start out with a good list that is prioritized AND you have set aside time to complete the tasks.
Allwork.Space: On the employer side of things, what can managers or company leaders do to drive productivity during the holiday season?
First, and I can’t say this strongly enough, don’t create a bunch of busy work just to keep people “busy”. They will see through it and it will crush morale.
Instead, I would look to distill the things your team needs to do down to the core essentials. Maybe that report can wait till January. Maybe that software project can wait. Everyone should work to make sure the company does the things it needs to do, but don’t give out new projects just to make sure people stay busy. And, when people meet their accountabilities, give them flexibility around their work hours that makes sense.
Allwork.Space: How can employers energize their employees and keep the business running – without diminishing the holiday spirit?
My recommendation would be to simply embrace that people are going to be less productive around the holidays.
Maybe give them days to leave early to get some last-minute shopping done. Or give them additional days off. If the data tells people are going to be less productive, fighting it is going to irritate your team in a tight labor market.
I would encourage your leadership team to find a way to embrace it in a way that doesn’t cripple your business but recognizes that your employees have some different priorities with their time during the holidays.