How to manage a small business at Christmas

The Christmas period is using a polarising time for businesses. Depending on what your company does, you’ll either be hugely busy or very quiet. It’s easier to handle the latter situation, but if you’re a business that relies on success over the Christmas period, it can be a very challenging time to manage everything. This is especially true for smaller enterprises, which typically have less of a buffer to deal with issues and problems.

Here’s how to manage your small business over the Christmas period, according to Mike James who works with staff management specialists Planday.

Reward vs. productivity

Christmas can be a difficult thing to balance when you are running a small business. It’s only natural that as Christmas draws nearer, staff will be looking forward to the holiday and time spent with their family. As such many businesses like to try to make this time as easy and relaxed as possible. However, it should also be recognised that for a large proportion of companies, the weeks leading up to Christmas are some of the busiest and most lucrative.

It’s important to balance the rewarding of staff with the need for high levels of productivity. Every company would like to be able to give their team shorter days or additional time off over the festive season. If this is something you would like to do, you need to tie in that reward to everyone getting their work done.

Make sure everyone is aware of what is expected of them

It can be the case that as it comes closer to Christmas, some staff members naturally begin to relax. In a large company this isn’t too much of a problem as there are enough workers to pick up the slack, but in a small business if just a few people aren’t working at their normal capacity it can be a huge problem. If your business doesn’t rely on high productivity over the Christmas period this might not be an issue. But if it does then you need to ensure that everyone knows that they still need to be working at a high level.

Should you offer a Christmas bonus?

There are several schools of thought on whether the Christmas bonus is important. If you use a Christmas bonus as part of the reward over this part of the year you should ensure that the bonus is tied to employee performance – either throughout the year or specifically during this busy time. This way you can encourage your staff to continue working hard as they have the Christmas bonus to look forward to. If the bonus is simply an expected part of the wage then it cannot have the same effect.

Are you throwing a Christmas party?

The Christmas party can be a large expense for a small business and it’s worth looking at the specific makeup of your company to establish whether it is worth it. It’s possible that the money spent on the Christmas party could be better spent offering different incentives that would be more worthwhile. It could be a better idea to organise a casual Christmas lunch instead of a big event in the evening – this can be just as a fun and be a fraction of the cost.

Managing staff holiday

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Christmas period can be a very popular time to book time off. This is partly because people like to get more time off over Christmas, but also because staff members may have holiday remaining that they suddenly realise they need to book off. In a small business this can be especially problematic as with fewer people, it’s harder to cover those who are off.

You’ll need to set down some rules to make it as easy as possible. For example, let everyone know well ahead of time that only a certain number of people can be off at the same time and insist on a first-come, first-served basis.

Don’t assume December will be like a normal month

One mistake that many small businesses make is that they assume that December will be like every other month. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions this is never the case. The aforementioned likelihood of staff being off on holiday is just one issue – there are other unforeseen challenges, for example, if you work with suppliers, they may be more difficult to contact or deal with during this time if their staff are overwhelmed. You need to assume that things will take longer and that other Christmas activities may derail your plans.