Getting ready for the Christmas Countdown

Yes, holidays are essential, giving employees time to recharge and return with renewed vigour and increased productivity. However, most businesses could do better when it comes to how they manage the additional workloads of those left behind.

This summer a lack of preparation by British businesses meant 88 per cent of full-time workers were forced to take on additional work to cover for absent colleagues – clocking up to an extra six and a half hours a week on average. (That’s the flight from London to New York your desk bound employees were probably dreaming of!) Over half of workers also said they were expected to take on some or all of their colleagues work without any prior warning according to research conducted by Censuswide. With less than 100 days to Christmas, many British businesses may find themselves repeating the mistakes of the summer holiday season.

Failure to prepare means British businesses are risking both their staff morale and their company performance. While employees might expect to pick up some of the slack during busy periods of annual leave, overstretched and underprepared staff may feel underappreciated and be more likely to make mistakes. Lack of preparation also disrupts the day to day running of the businesses, and can lead to lost opportunities and even increased staff turnover.

Hayley Conick, Country Manager for Elance-oDesk, says that Annual leave is not the enemy. If holidays are booked in advance, businesses have plenty of time to plan, reassign tasks and alleviate the pressure on their staff. With the next big exodus just around the corner, here are some simple steps you can take to avoid a Christmas (it will be here before we know it!) holiday hangover for your business:

It’s unlikely that all the work of a staff member heading off on holiday will need to be completed before their return. Before they leave for their break, sit down with them and decide what work simply has to be done while they’re away and what can wait.

Delegate and communicate
Communication is key to successful delegation. If possible, call a meeting for everyone involved to discuss who will be taking on which tasks while their colleague is on leave. If that’s not possible, request that the person leaving sends an email clearly outlining the important tasks to be prioritised in their absence. Make sure that no single member of the team takes on the majority of the burden.

Set deadlines
Setting deadlines will help your remaining staff prioritise work, and understand how to balance new tasks with their existing workload. Make sure these deadlines are achievable and clear.

Keep customers informed
Clients and customers will want to be reassured that they won’t be forgotten during the holiday season. Be open and honest about which members of the team are on leave, but ensure that clients are aware of the processes you have in place to make sure that work gets done.

Bring in freelance support
Having an extra set of hands on board will ensure that very specific tasks are completed, especially if there’s no one else on your existing team qualified to take on that work. By bringing in skilled freelancers temporarily, businesses can scale up and down when resources are required, without adding to their fixed cost base.

Image: business team punching the air to celebrate christmas by Shutterstock