While it’s a good idea to let your employees know you appreciate them throughout the year, the holiday season provides employers an opportunity to up their game.
Be flexible with work schedules
The holidays are always a busy time outside of work for pretty much everyone.
Bosses can acknowledge and support that by being a little more flexible about schedules, said Deb Boelkes, author of the “WOW Factor Workplace: How to create a Best Place to Work Culture.”
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That could mean letting a staffer leave early to take care of last-minute shopping, or letting employees work from home and sparing them the commute. It might also mean figuring out ways to keep the business going with as few people as possible so more employees can take time off to be with family.
Some companies will give everyone an extra paid day or two off around the holidays, while others may close the offices for the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Write a note of thanks
Holiday parties or other group perks are great. But every employee has made individual contributions – tangible and intangible – to your organization’s success. So direct managers might consider writing a personal note to each team member recognizing their contributions and expressing good wishes for their family.
It can be as simple as “Thank you so much for going the extra mile on the Smith project. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with Shelly and the kids.”
“It’s those things that mean a manager really paid attention,” Boelkes said.
Give a small gift
Managers may choose to personally give their team members a small gift at year-end. That’s a perfectly fine gesture, Boelkes said. But if you’re giving a cash-equivalent gift such as a gift card, don’t expense it to the company because the cost might be treated as taxable income to the employee.
Celebrate with remote employees
When a company’s employees work remotely, there are creative ways to celebrate them at the holidays.
At FlexJobs, a jobs posting site for those seeking telecommuting, remote or freelance work, CEO Sara Sutton said this year the company sponsored a holiday lunch by video conference, with everyone buying their favorite meal and expensing it. In addition, the company will pay for any holiday lunches team members who live near each other choose to have in person.
It also lets employees choose from one of five nonprofits to which the company will make a donation in their name.
In past years, FlexJobs has also held cookie swaps – whereby everyone who wants to bake cookies can send them to each other. “Whenever I approach benefits and perks to build culture, I think of what we’d do in an on-site office and translate it. And normally people bring cookies into the office,” Sutton said.
She’s also an advocate for sending remote workers holiday care packages with everyone’s favorite treats. That’s something FlexJobs chooses to do at Halloween, but it easily translates to Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s.
“It’s incredibly appreciated,” Sutton said.
Make it easier for working parents to attend the company party
Three-quarters of companies said they’re throwing a holiday party this year, according to the latest survey from Challenger, Gray & Christmas. But for employees with young kids, attending adults-only company parties can mean childcare headaches.
With that in mind, PayPal is holding nine holiday parties across the country for its staff from mid-December into January and adding an extra perk: child care.
“There’s usually a financial and logistics burden [for parents] that goes along with that. So we wanted to remove that burden,” said Kelli Dickeson, a senior benefits program manager at PayPal.
The company is offering free in-home and onsite babysitting services from Bright Horizons. The parties are usually held in hotels, so employees who want to make a night of it can also get a discounted rate if they choose to stay there, and Bright Horizons will send someone to babysit their children in the hotel room during the party.
Be seriously extravagant
If your company can afford it, don’t be afraid to go over-the-top once in a while. A large unexpected bonus or even an all-expenses paid vacation are great ways for employers to show appreciation and give back to employees. They will likely remember it forever.
St. John Properties, a Maryland real estate company, flew in all of its out-of-state employees plus their guests this year for a company holiday party and paid for their hotels.
Then the president surprised everyone who worked for the company with $10 million in holiday bonuses – which averaged out to $50,000 a person – to thank everyone for helping the company hit a major business milestone.
Don’t bother employees when they’re off
If your company trades in a lot of after-hours emails, imagine how refreshing it would be to put the kibosh on that bad habit during the holiday season.
Boelkes suggests telling your team, “My gift to you is you’re not going to hear from me. But if you need to reach me, I’m there for you.”