HR Tip of the Week

Posted on  |  Performance management

5 Holiday Doldrums & How to Tackle Them

Productivity can take a nosedive during the holiday season, especially if employees are impacted by a cold or other illness, personal stressors, or inclement weather. While some of these circumstances are uncontrollable, employers can take steps to help make the holiday season as smooth as possible. Here are some ways to address common issues that arise this time of year:

#1: Increased vacation requests.

The holiday season is a popular time for employees to request vacation. If this time of year is busy for you, establish an early deadline for submitting vacation requests, or have block-out periods when vacations are completely off limits or other periods when time off is restricted. Whatever strategy you choose, establish policies on how employees can submit vacation requests and make clear that the company reserves the right to decide when employees can take time off. Additionally, give supervisors guidance on handling time off requests and ensuring adequate staffing levels.

#2: Unscheduled absences.

Some employers see a rise in unscheduled absences before and after a company holiday when employees call in "sick" but really just want the day off. To help address this issue, consider requiring non-exempt employees to work the day before and after a holiday to receive holiday pay (unless the time off was scheduled in advance). Apply this policy consistently, but reserve the right to review on a case-by-case basis for legitimate instances of illness. Additionally, this policy cannot be applied to employees who are classified as exempt from overtime (these employees must generally receive their full salary in any workweek in which they perform work). You can also consider incentives to help limit unscheduled absences, such as a providing an extra vacation day to employees who work during less desirable times or who meet certain attendance and punctuality benchmarks.

#3: Holiday blues.

For some employees, the holiday season can be a stressful time and this can impact performance. Morale-boosting activities, such as company outings, a holiday party, potlucks, or volunteer opportunities may help to relieve some of this stress. You can also consider flexible work arrangements this time of year, such as alternative start and stop times or compressed workweeks.

#4: Inclement weather.

In many parts of the country, inclement weather can present a challenge this time of year. To ensure that your company continues to run smoothly during a weather emergency, develop contingency plans and identify essential business functions, equipment, and staff needed to maintain operations. This may include having a generator to keep company equipment and computer servers operating, backing up data in a separate and secure location, and/or allowing employees to work remotely. Since power outages are possible, have multiple ways to contact employees during an emergency, including cell phone and landline numbers and personal email addresses.

#5: Cold and flu.

The winter is also cold and flu season. Consider providing employees with information on how to prevent the spread of germs and encourage (but do not require) employees to get a flu shot and other vaccinations. Help employees practice healthy habits by providing tissues, no-touch trash cans, hand soap and sanitizer, and disposable towels. Additionally, encourage employees to stay home from work if they are sick. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that employees wait at least 24 hours after a fever ends before returning to work. Note: If the condition is considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the employer must consider a reasonable accommodation and evaluate whether the illness is severe enough to pose a direct threat to others in the workplace.


Preparation is the key to a smooth holiday season. Make sure you are prepared to handle increased absences and other potential dips in productivity.

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