Holidays and Work-Life Balance: Three Important Questions

Like a partridge headed to a pear tree, the holidays are in full flight. We’ve recently talked about some different ways your organization can serve during this critical time of giving, and hopefully you’ve embraced the spirit of the season. Before it’s too late, we also wanted to remind you of one especially important issue we all face this time of year: work-life balance.

Now, to be clear, we question whether work-life balance is even a thing. But regardless, the holiday season often takes employees away from the workplace for a number of reasons—whether they’re headed to a school holidays program or taking off a little early to travel to their parents’ home—and employers need to prepare. They need to prepare from a production standpoint, and they also need to prepare from a cultural standpoint. Because holiday schedule flexibility is more important to today’s workforce than ever before.

Below are three important questions to answer this December as your employees clock out at increased rates.

(A disclaimer. We’re talking about short-term absences: Leaving a little earlier than usual or taking a longer break than usual. We are not discussing long, unexcused absences to watch the new blockbuster film or whole-day absences without explanation; regardless of the season, these are typically inexcusable.)

1. Did you prepare employees for the holidays? Do your employees know your protocols? Have you had candid conversations about how flexible you will be (or won’t be) during the holiday season? If not, do it now! Anytime you leave employees with their own assumptions, you are bound to have some problems.

2. Is it mission critical that the employee is at the workplace? If the answer is no, it’s usually best to let them take care of personal issues during the holiday season. Depending on your industry, sometimes you simply cannot afford to let an employee take off without having somebody there to fill in for them (even if they’ll be back in a matter of minutes). In those cases, make sure employees know and understand this. Regardless, all employees need to communicate their holiday schedules with their supervisors to ensure production isn’t put to a halt.

3. Why should we give people additional flexibility just because of the holidays? For a number of reasons. First of all, a lot of employees will expect it. Beyond that, granting employees flexibility when a lot of them need it simply shows you care about them and their personal lives. And for those who can’t afford to give large holiday bonuses, this is a cost-free bonus of sorts.

But beyond all that, take a minute to consider this. Have you ever seen a holiday season movie where one of the main characters has to work late on Christmas Eve or misses a child’s holiday program? Who comes across as the villain? The employers do! And you do not want to be the villain! So, if you haven’t planned out holiday-season schedules and had crucial conversations about flexibility, hurry! You’re running out of time.