Skip to content
Big Think+

The Importance of Employee Motivation During the Holidays

The end of the year is nearly here, and all throughout the nation employees are beginning their holiday celebrations.. For many, the holidays are a chance to sit back, relax, and forget about the stresses of work as they spend time with their family and friends.

However, even when employees are taking a break from their work duties, it is still vital that they remain motivated for when they come back to work after the holidays. The importance of employee motivation during the holidays cannot be understated.
Why? Here are a few reasons:

1) Disengaged Workers Cost Money

One Big Think article on the global problem of disengaged employees cited a Gallup analysis that employees who were actively disengaged “those who ‘hate’ going to work – cost the U.S. as much as $550 billion in economic activity annually.” Worse yet, according to more recent Gallup statistics, “The majority (50.8%) of employees were ‘not engaged,’ while another 17.2% were ‘actively disengaged’” with their work. This means that only 32%, or slightly under 1/3, of all the workers in the USA are engaged with their work.
Basically, for every three people you have who are doing their best and pulling their weight, there are five who are just punching the clock, and two who are actively wasting time and resources.
Keeping employees motivated during the holidays can help prevent engaged employees from sliding into disengagement, and disengaged employees from becoming actively disengaged.

2) Maintaining Motivation is a Year-Round Task

Almost everyone recognizes that employee engagement can be an enormous differentiator for success. After all, engaged employees go the extra mile, ultimately boosting a company’s bottom line. However, the low engagement rate for American workers shown by the Gallup polls is proof that maintaining employee engagement is an incredibly difficult task—making it important year-round.
Just because the employee is taking a break from work doesn’t mean that efforts to keep him or her happy and motivated should stop.
How can your organization keep an employee motivated during the holidays? The answer may be deceptively simple. One means of keeping employees motivated is to actively enforce a healthy work-life balance among their employees.
As noted in a Big Think article titled Help Your Employees Help You featuring insights from the CEO and founder of SAS, Jim Goodnight:

“Work-life balance is the second most sought-after attribute in an employer, ranking just below compensation as a priority of jobseekers. Yet nearly a third of American employers are out of compliance with the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires large organizations to provide at least 12 weeks of unpaid maternity or sick leave to anyone who has worked 1,250 hours the preceding year.
Too often, managers see work-life balance as the sole responsibility of employees. That’s a mistake. Goodnight’s argument is that the annoying, everyday distractions that arise in all of our lives inhibit creativity, which makes them his problem too. Employees who are worried about how long a doctor’s appointment will take or whether they’ll be able to pick up the dry cleaning by six are not able to focus fully on the task at hand. And let’s face it: no matter how good we are at multi-tasking, we’re all thinking about these issues some of the time.”

Employers that forget to make sure employees are taking time for themselves can inadvertently create a poor work-life balance situation for their employees—which negatively affects the employee’s engagement with work.
The holiday season is a great time to consider honoring a strong work-life balance. This may involve rescheduling meetings or reassigning workloads to accommodate the time employees have off, but it can be an effective way to alleviate excessive stress and demonstrate that their leaders care.

3) The Holidays Can Be a Time for Reflection—and Disengagement

During the holiday season, many people have a lot on their minds beyond work. The examples of doctor’s appointments and dry cleaning cited earlier may be compounded by worries over gift shopping, visiting family, and having to watch the kids who would normally be in school for much of the day.
Many employees take a week or two of vacation during the holidays so they can focus on family for a bit. And, during this time, people may end up spending some time reflecting on their lives and their sense of accomplishment from their work. In fact, as noted in one Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, “Large social gatherings of peers, such as class reunions, can also be catalysts—they’re natural occasions for people to measure their progress relative to others’. (Job hunting jumps 16% after reunions.).”
While the example given in the HBR article is school reunions, parallels can be drawn to large family gatherings where people measure their progress against others.
Ensuring that employees can feel proud of their accomplishments at work can be a challenge. However, it can be well worth the effort. Some ways to improve the chances of an employee reflecting positively on their career with your organization include:

  • Providing Recognition for a Job Well Done. Taking the time to congratulate employees for their hard work and dedication heading into the holidays is a great way to make sure their last impression of work before heading home is a positive one.
  • Talking to Employees About Their Future Plans. Many workers need to know that they have a future with the organization. Talking to employees about their future plans with the organization helps them see how they fit in.

Keeping employee engagement and motivation high during the holidays is no small challenge. However, it can help keep your employees from leaving your organization during the holidays, and keep them eager for when they get to return to work (if they take the time off) so the transition from holiday schedules back to normal work schedules goes a little bit smoother.
Need more ideas for how you can keep your employees motivated during the holidays? Contact Big Think+ to learn more today.

Join the #1 community of L&D professionals

Sign up to receive new research and insights every Tuesday.