Holiday season is almost upon us! And for any business, small or large, the key part of that sentence to pay attention to is the word “holiday” – because that word means different things to the employee and the employer. For employees it means: tools down, go home, relax. For employers it means: production slows or stops, output falters, sales decline, and revenue takes a hit yet salaries and costs must still be paid out.
Regardless of what holiday, festival or other important cultural time of reflection it is – be it Christmas, Ramadan, or Diwali – the same rules apply: people stop focusing on work and start focusing on life’s other important aspects, namely – family, friends and helping those less fortunate than ourselves.
So, what can businesses do to prepare and limit the impact of a slow-down and enable everyone to enjoy their well-deserved holiday without worrying about what’s going on back at the office?
Planning ahead is hard at the best of times and is even more of a challenge when everyone’s attention inevitably starts to drift in late November and December towards the rapidly approaching mini-hiatus. Things get rushed, mistakes happen, tasks get missed completely or pushed into the New Year. But the dread of December’s leftovers can be both an unwelcome disturbance to the festivities as well as an unnecessary drag on January’s output.
Planning ahead is the one thing that can actually save a business and our personal lives a lot of time, effort and stress. Let’s be honest, when the heat of the Christmas rush is on, our frame of mind will sometimes be ‘how can I get away with doing this in January, or not at all?’ Rather than, ‘how can I prepare so I don’t have to worry about anything while I am away?’ Or, ‘how can I not feel a sense of foreboding that January will be an uphill struggle?’
Fear not, help is at hand. There are some very simple, quick and easy things each of us can do to help make the holiday a genuine, bona fide holiday.
So, Before You Go:
1 – Find The Gaps (And Plug Them)
Make sure you know when everyone is on holiday and whether anyone else can cover for them.
2 – Ease Your Burden: Plan For January
Decide what can genuinely be left to the New Year but don’t just leave it hanging around, plan it in for a specific time and day in January. Don’t let drift creep in. Knowing you have this specific time allocated will put your mind at rest too.
3 – Defeat Your Energy Bill And A Hacker Too
Since this is the season of goodwill and if charity truly begins at home, then turning off the lights and heat, or at least turning them down to the lowest setting, will significantly reduce the cost of your energy bill and give the planet’s temperature a little breather too.
Turning off your computers also makes them almost impossible to hack into and thus almost impossible for your data to be stolen. If a computer isn’t switched on and not connected to a network, then there is an air break between it and the rest of the network that no hacker, however talented, can overcome.
For any computer that must be left on, ensure it is logged out (and consider changing the password). Then do a pre-holiday security check to make sure you’ve covered off all the relevant software updates – seriously – this can often take one click of the update button and your computer should find all the latest security patches to apply. The one thing you don’t want happening to your business systems is for them to be compromised and no one finding out for a week or two because they’re too busy hacking away at the gift wrap instead.
4 – Switch On Your Email Out of Office
A simple message will do. Thanks. The dates you’re off and the date you’re back and the details perhaps of who to contact in an emergency (for your staff and your customers).
Alternatively, you might want to consider an out of office reply like Joana Breidenbach’s. She says thank you and then explains the sender’s email will be deleted. Yes, you read that right: deleted!
This might sound a little rude or extreme perhaps, but if your employees usually receive hundreds of emails while they’re on holiday, it could be the most practical and cost-effective option. One of the biggest time-drains when people come back from holiday is having to sift through their holiday email. Well, if they don’t receive any, they won’t need to spend the time sifting any. It will also stop people checking their email when away and not relaxing properly.
This puts the onus back on the sender to reconsider when is the most appropriate time to send their email. If the recipient is on holiday, then their email is only going to sit in the inbox and potentially be lost in the flood.
5 – Keep Your Customers Satisfied
How will you process the orders you take on the last working day before everyone disappears? When will your customers get what they ordered? Is your website communicating what happens? Yes, you want the orders, and so do your customers, but if they don’t know what to expect, then you may end up with a lot of complaints, poor reviews online and cancellations or requests for refunds.
6 – Empty The Fridge And Take Out The Trash
Unless, of course, you want a foul-smelling fragrance in your office to welcome you back, or you’re breeding bacteria and fungi as a commercial experiment. But you’re probably not, are you?
7 – Lock The Door
And set the alarm. Always.
8. Enjoy Your Holiday
You’re going to need the energy in the New Year!
Words By Lee Carnihan