The holidays might be jolly, but it's not a holly jolly time for work productivity.
Employers and bosses who expect their employees to put in a dedicated effort in the weeks leading up to the holidays might be in for a rude awakening, with a new study from HR data analysis company Peakon finding that most employees are checked out by mid-December. The survey assessed more than 2,000 U.K. workers about their work habits before the holidays.
About six in 10 workers say their productivity noticeably declines in the week before Christmas, which suggests workplace efficiency will start to noticeably falter on Dec. 18th. But many workers have checked out long before then, with Peakon finding that 61 percent of those surveyed said they were distracted by the holidays starting in November.
"Though we gathered this data in the U.K., anecdotally I think it's fair to say that our American friends are likely feeling pretty distracted too -- particularly with Thanksgiving having just been and gone," said Dan Rogers, the co-founder of Peakon, in an email. "But wherever you are in the world, we say trust your employees and let them relax a little -- t'is the season, after all!"
The holidays are increasingly pushing earlier, thanks partly to retailers kicking off Black Friday sales before the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving start date. Many big retailers hoped the strategy would catch shoppers' interest (and wallets) before their rivals could, given the tightened competition between online sales giant Amazon and bricks-and-mortar retailers.
That might pay off for retailers, but it can be tough for workers who are trying to maintain their focus in the face of email alerts about sales and invitations to holiday events. About one-third of employees said they get distracted because they've got too much to plan for Christmas day.
But employees' lack of concentration isn't the only culprit: one-third of workers said they check out simply because work slows down, which Peakon described as the "natural decline in activity" that many businesses experience as the holidays approach.
Interestingly, there are some differences in holiday distractedness by age group. Millennials -- or workers between ages 25 to 34 -- are the most likely to get overwhelmed by holiday planning than other age groups. They're also the most likely to get distracted by workplace festivities, Peakon found.
Of course, millennials are in the stage of life when they're settling down with their own families and having children, which adds to the burdens of holiday planning.
So what are employees doing if they're not working? Four of 10 admit to online holiday shopping, while another one-third are spending time planning Christmas day or their holiday break. Perhaps alarmingly, 16 percent said they are tippling on the job.
Rather than fight the holiday slack-off, employers can rely on a few strategies to keep their employees engaged, Peakon said. It recommends holding the holiday party later in December, since an early office party may signal to workers that they can start checking out after the big event.
Since the week after Christmas is often slow, employers might consider shutting the office between Christmas day and New Year's Day, it added. Leading up to the holiday, encourage workers to spend time on micro-projects or creative brainstorming, which can help keep them engaged.
"If you look after the well-being of your team, you'll ultimately get the best out of them," Rogers said.