December, the month of merriment and good cheer, also happens to be a time of crucial reckoning for business. It’s year-end, the close of the fourth quarter, and when a third of American workers reportedly take seven days off between Christmas and New Year’s. Contrary to popular belief, however, the final week of the year is actually a surprisingly productive one.
According to Moneyish, a Dow Jones site for millennials that “sees the world with cash-colored glasses,” business productivity drops only 5 percent between Dec. 25 and Jan. 1. Moneyish analyzed a robust study by Egnyte, a file-sharing service, that looked at whether, and to what extent, work slowed around the holidays.
The Egnyte study examined more than 3 billion activities from the holiday week of 2016 (when Christmas fell on a Sunday) with an average week from that year. Several industries scored significant gains in productivity, including business services (26 percent), health care (44 percent), and media and entertainment (33 percent).
It’s easy to fathom why the entertainment industry would spike during holiday week, with restaurants, movies, music venues, and clubs at their yearly peak. But the image many of us have of an “office dead zone” in traditional business settings during the days after Christmas may no longer be accurate.
Certainly the investment world sees its lowest yearly trading volume on Christmas Eve and Dec. 26 (closely followed by Dec. 27 and the day after Thanksgiving). But why would technology workers, bankers, lawyers, health professionals, and all their staff be working harder, or be willing to work at all, when the rest of the country is singing about two turtle doves and a pear-treed partridge on the day after Christmas, Dec. 26?
Because you can get so much done, because there are fewer distractions, because your clients and customers are anxious with the end of the year nigh. That’s what many professionals report about their post-Christmas experience.
Parents with school-age children are understandably not among those eager to go into the office after Christmas, given the usual two weeks of school vacation (and often busier sports schedules) their families face. But, as Moneyish noted, 64 percent of employees who take time off after Christmas do check in with the office. Put another way, post-Christmas absence is not precisely like a vacation absence.
Employees know that important work, including careful year-end number-crunching and last-minute deal-making, happens in this final week. The tradition of year-end or Christmas bonuses endures, and at least some employees want to reinforce the wisdom of being granted a large one by being present.
Christmas Day falls on a Tuesday this year. Assuming a half-day off on Christmas Eve, a bonus holiday that many companies grant their employees, employers are left with three full “normal workweek” days (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday), the weekend, and New Year’s Eve to round out December’s finale.
According to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), over 84 percent of its member HR professionals across the country reported that their companies stayed open the week between Christmas and New Year’s last year. It’s a decent bet that this year, many senior staff employees, for example, will use existing PTO to enjoy a nice long week away from work, while younger and less-tenured people pick up the slack.
Rather than succumb to the low expectation that those who do show up “aren’t getting much done,” employers are better off rewarding workers willing to fully return during the post-Christmas week with, for example, supplemental pay (and not just leftover fruitcake).
Moreover, by supporting—and monitoring—people who, particularly during this week, want to work from home, business owners honor the holiday-at-home tradition so steeped in the American psyche, but also reinforce a continuing commitment to productivity.
Fifty-two weeks of the year are figured into a business balance sheet. This final one counts too, and not just for Scrooge.
Linda L. Holstein is a Minneapolis writer, trial lawyer, and veteran employment law attorney with her own law firm, Holstein Law Group. She helps businesses and individuals with workplace issues, including MSP Communications.