6 Ways to Keep Employees Engaged During the Holidays


It’s not easy to keep your employees engaged during the holidays. Your staff is either on vacation, waiting to go on vacation, or at work wanting to go on vacation. Skeleton crews show up at regularly scheduled meetings, and overall productivity drops. In fact, productivity drops by just over 50% around the winter holiday season in North America. And in Europe, it drops by a whopping 63%.

Some amount of holiday slowdown in your company is to be expected. You’re going to have fewer employees in the office, and those who do show up are likely to be preoccupied with holiday plans and preparation.

But you can take several steps to combat the holiday slump. Keeping your employees engaged during the holidays means being goal-oriented, generous, flexible, and mindful of your employee’s mental health.

#1. Keep an eye on the numbers

Company goals are a great way to keep your employees engaged during the holidays—especially if you offer motivating rewards. (It’s hard to slack off during the seminal push to meet your company goals and receive three extra days of PTO or a retreat to a tropical destination.)

Communicate with your staff about all of the great accomplishments they’ve made during the year, as well as performance statistics and other highlights. This is a great time for self-reflection, and to thank the people who keep your business humming.

Hammer home how important it is to hit your end-of-year goals. Remind co-workers that the end of the year is a time to celebrate all that was done in the months prior—but that there’s still work to done, and that everyone should finish strong. If you make sure that your messaging is positive and encouraging, you can help keep your staff focused despite the holiday distractions.

#2. Motivate employees to give back

The holiday season provides a great opportunity to emphasize your company’s charitable giving programs. Employees are already in the giving spirit, and may feel inundated by requests for donations coming from all directions. But if you’re able to offer matching donations for approved charities of their choice, you can entice your employees to participate in your company’s initiatives.

A volunteer day can also help keep employees engaged during the holidays. By either setting up a group outing, or encouraging staff to take a paid day off to volunteer, you can create opportunities to make your staff feel festive while also doing good in the community. Plus, who doesn’t like a free day out of the office?

#3. Offer flexible scheduling and remote work

Companies lose roughly $1.8 trillion every year due to loss of employee engagement and their workers not having access to adequate childcare. These factors are pretty prevalent during the holidays, too. Think about how many people spend their days online shopping at work ahead of the holiday crunch. Now, think about how many would-be babysitters are out of town on family vacations.

Even if your company doesn’t have a flexible working program throughout the year, considering implementing one around the holidays (within reason, of course!). If your business relies on the kind of work that can be done from anywhere, there’s little reason not to offer employees flexibility during the holiday season. Perhaps you can allow your staff with the option to come in late (and stay later), arrive early (and leave early), or work from home a certain number of days during the holiday months. You’ll get more productivity out of your employees, and have fewer overall absences as well.

#4. Spread holiday cheer—without forcing fun

You may be more successful keeping employees engaged during the holidays if you don’t force them to attend holiday parties.  

Office holiday parties are divisive: some people love them, others loathe them. One recent study’s findings suggested that only 36% of professionals like office parties, which means you could end up spending some major coin on a party that only a third of your staff wants to attend in the first place. Not a great return on investment, is it?

Poll your staff (anonymously, of course) on what kind of office party alternatives they may prefer. Don’t be surprised if your employees would rather go out to a long, company-sponsored lunch. Or would rather just see the holiday party budget disbursed as an end-of-year bonus. After all, who wouldn’t prefer to have a little extra cash around the holidays?

#5. Run contests to hit goals

The holiday season isn’t exactly easy on the bank account. You’ve got gifts to purchase, guests to entertain, and plenty of other credit card-melting obligations that can decimate anyone’s personal finances. That’s why contests are particularly effective during the holidays.

In addition to the rewards you offer for meeting company year-end goals, consider offering cash rewards or gift cards to for employee performance. This way you can make sure that your Q4 and end-of-year targets stay at the top of everyone’s minds, while also giving them an incentive to keep their efforts up.

#6. Keep an eye out for your employees

Finally, there’s an argument to be made that there is a correlation between employee health and engagement. That’s why it helps to encourage mental health awareness in the office during the holiday season.   

The holiday season isn’t easy for everyone. The expectation to be merry, jolly, or excited for the new year takes its toll on some people. Holiday parties are, more often than not, a nightmare for people with social anxiety. And anyone who’s lost a loved one can feel the pain of their absence around this time of year. Throw in the financial expectations the holidays bring, and you’ve got a great recipe for seasonal depression.

The holidays are a particularly good time to keep an eye on your employees’ mental health. Look for changes in behavior, hygiene, dress, or social interactions. It’s not always easy to see gradual changes in a team member’s disposition, but there are plenty of opportunities to do a status check.

Meet with employees informally for coffee, or simply drop by their desks to see how they’re holding up. A little bit of extra kindness and attention can go a long way this time of year.


No matter how you choose to keep your employees engaged during the holidays, make sure you give it your full effort. The only thing worse than forced fun in the office is a half-baked attempt to force fun in the office.

If you’re going with a holiday party, make sure you don’t try to do it on the cheap. Or, if you’re opting for a content to keep employees motivated, don’t expect them to break their backs over a $10 gift card. The more you give, the more you get. And after all, that’s the true meaning of the holiday season, isn’t it?

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