How to Resist the Christmas Productivity Slide

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas: toys in stores, holly on doors and unproductive workers, possibly drunk on floors.

Yes, we’re into the traditional Christmas wind-down, when the mere sight of tinsel and smell of pine seems to infect everyone (and yes, that means you) with a sense that it’s okay to take a long lunch, quaff a wine or duck out early on a Secret Santa mission.

But when exactly are people starting to zone out? A new survey suggests it might well be today.

Just over half of the 3,000 British workers questioned by Danish human resources consultancy Peakon had “clicked off” by December 16. Perhaps more worryingly, 12% said they had started winding down before December.

“Now, it appears the whole week ahead of Christmas is a productivity write-off, and in many cases, the next week is, too.

“Christmas seems to be starting earlier every year,” said Peakon co-founder Dan Rogers, who recalls only getting a half-day off on Christmas Eve 15 years ago, if he was lucky. “Now, it appears the whole week ahead of Christmas is a productivity write-off, and in many cases, the next week is, too.”

He blames increased commercialism: retailers want to start Christmas early to profit from an extended festive season. And all those discounts, ads and flashy mall decorations have swayed our collective consciousness.

Here are four ways he says managers can soften the blow:

1. Hold your Christmas party as late as possible
2. Shut the office between Christmas and New Years
3. Set an easily definable “fun” day immediately before vacation
4. Don’t hold performance reviews in November

Of course, for many of these methods to be effective, it would be helpful for a critical mass of companies to participate. One thing that sustains the Christmas wind-down is that even those wanting to work find they’re in the minority. Why bother trying to get things done if clients and counter-parties aren’t picking up the phone anyway?

And there’s another school of thought that suggests losing a smidgen of productivity in December could help keep workers sane enough to come out charging in the new year.

Rather than get out the big stick, Rogers suggests that CEOs might want to tap the generally lighter mood to get other things done, such as fun team-building exercises or charity activities.


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