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ADVICE: Christmas tips

There will be a lot of requests for annual leave over the Christmas period and if you cannot close the business, you will need to apply a fair and consistent approach to authorising and rejecting annual leave requests.

Consider what you did last year, particularly in terms of holiday requests. If it worked and everyone on the whole was happy, there is no reason to move away from the same procedure. If you did have issues, it is important to attempt to get it right this year.

Firstly, remember that employees are not entitled to have the days off that they want. Their request must suit your business. However, Christmas is probably the only time when you should deviate from the first come, first serve rule you may have in operation for the rest of the year.

Remember you have to be consistent and making sure you are protected against the 2011 Employment Equality Act.

Here are some other tips to help the business keep going over the Christmas period:

1. Communication is key to the success of any company, so end the year with a company round up, showing your team how much value they bring and informing them of any changes planned for the next year.

2. Avoid a stressful Christmas – Christmas is increasingly becoming a stressful time of year for employees, with deadlines looming, longer hours and the pressure of Christmas (e.g. financial worries and family issues). Ineffectively managing staff stress can have a negative impact on productivity. Try to avoid high-pressure activities, tight deadlines and make-or-break meetings

3. Winter bugs – along with celebrations, Christmas also brings an increase in employee illness. A mixture of weather fluctuations, more time spent indoors and holiday stress can cause more people to take time off from work. Combat germs spreading in the office to avoid a massamount of employees taking leave at the same time

4. Look at other ways to reward employees rather than a Christmas bonus. While a bonus is helpful there may be other ways that are more cost effective to reward staff. Christmas parties, training or even investment in equipment may be preferred by staff as it shows that the company is committed to them.

5. Don’t forget January – start thinking about the return to work in January, which is generally seen as the most uninspiring time of year. Make it less daunting by planning in advance and ensuring that your employees are ready for work in 2016. That way they can have a stress free Christmas knowing that everything is in place for the new year.

The Forum has also come up with 10 top tips for employers to make Christmas as enjoyable as possible – happy staff can make productive staff and really increase business sales:

1. Ask your staff

If you have to cut the Christmas party budget, explain this to your staff, most of them will understand that times are tough. Also ask them for alternative ideas that do not cost much money. Most people will be impressed that you have even asked. Once you have a few good ideas, put them to a vote.

2. Host a low key event 

You do not have to have an expensive Christmas party with a three course meal and a free bar. Nor do you have to rent out a venue, if you have the space to do it in your own premises and it is an appropriate venue. An informal get together with a few nibbles, with staff invited to bring a bottle, is better than nothing.

3. Make your own entertainment

For free entertainment that gets everyone talking, you could hold a festive quiz and donate a present as the prize for the winner. Be creative with the budget you have but just make sure you have fun.

4. Go for lunch

Who says that the Christmas get-together has to be in the evening? Rather than the Christmas party and an evening meal, you could take staff out for lunch at a local pub or restaurant. It will be cheaper than a traditional party, but your staff will still feel like they’ve been out.

5. Use discount websites

If you want to take your staff out for a meal or drinks, be sure to look for the best price. You can use group deal websites to source big discounts for staff nights out.

6. Say thanks

Showing staff you recognise their hard work can mean more than any gift or monetary bonus. Take the time to go round your place of work and talk to every member of staff. Talk to them about their plans for the holidays and thank them personally for their hard work. ‘Thank-yous’ still go a long, long way as it shows hard work has not gone unnoticed.

7. Recognise exceptional work

Make people feel valued by giving awards for exceptional work in your organisation, for example, the person who’s made the most sales or the most punctual time keeper.

8. Secret Santa

Allow staff to arrange a ‘secret Santa’, where participants each buy a present for one other member of staff. This won’t cost you anything.

9. Wind down

If it won’t affect productivity too much, you could allow staff to go home a couple of hours early on the last day before the Christmas holidays, especially if this time would usually have been taken up by the Christmas party. Whether its young workers eager to get to the pub, or those with children eager to get home – this will be widely appreciated.

10. Deck the halls

Allow staff to get into the festive spirit by decorating the office with Christmas decorations. Employers could even invite people to bring their own in to further save on costs.

Ian Cass is the managing director of the Forum of Private Business

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