The holidays can be a magical time of the year when you're surrounded by family, friends, good food, great parties, and fun traditions.
If you're a manager, you might be excited to get some much-needed rest and relaxation or family time. But, at the same time, you might be wondering how you're going to wrap up all your end-of-year projects while you and your team's minds start to wander off with holiday cheer.
At this point, you don't want to lose your stride due to a few days off, but you might be worried that getting too aggressive about deadlines will crush your team's festive spirit.
So, how do you end the year on a high note without looking like a total Grinch?
To develop a good balance between structure and seasonal happiness, it can be helpful to learn how a handful of other managers have handled the same challenge during past holiday seasons.
At HubSpot, a company that makes work culture a priority, our people managers are known for creatively and strategically hitting seasonal goals while still building team morale -- especially during the holiday season.
To help you prevent your team from running into the dreaded holiday slump, while still keeping the workplace bearable before the season, I talked to six seasoned HubSpot people managers from our marketing, sales, and support teams to get their advice.
Here are five ways HubSpot managers keep their teams on track while still embracing the holidays:
How to Avoid a Holiday Slump
1. Break down goals into achievable targets, phases, or quotas.
Rather than struggling to achieve giant goals in a short amount of time, split each goal up into phases or steps within a process. As your team accomplishes each step of the project, they'll feel like they succeeded and grow energetic about conquering the next phase.
"We all have end-of-year deadlines or goals -- and at times -- they can look very daunting. We’ve found it helpful to break them down into smaller targets," says Tara Ryan, a HubSpot CGS Sales Manager.
When it comes to her sales team, Ryan says she uses monthly and weekly quotas as a way to break down major goals:
"Quotas are easier to digest when we break them down into '25% attainment by the end of week one,' '50% attainment by the end of week two,' '75% by week three', and then '100%+ by the end of the month.'"
"The process of breaking down goals allows us to measure our progress on a weekly basis and more chances for us to celebrate team wins," Ryan adds.
When it comes to setting goals, it can also be helpful to get input from your team on what they'd like to accomplish by the end of the year. This will help you create realistic goals as a group and discuss any challenges that your team could run into along the way."
“If I know we’re about to enter into a time where it’s easy to slow down, like the summer or holidays, I try to get my group together to brainstorm what we want to accomplish as a group and vote on one goal," says Caroline Ostrander, a Customer Support Manager.
Like Ryan, Ostrander also embraces the idea of aiming for a limited number of reachable goals, rather than trying to achieve everything all at once.
"One goal helps the team focus and prioritize when we might feel unmotivated. [After the vote], I look for one or two volunteers to lead the charge on the goal and find fun and creative ways to keep it top of mind,” Ostrander explains.
2. Prepare for winter weather hurdles with work-from-home protocols.
At HubSpot's Cambridge, MA headquarters, we're very familiar with winter weather and understand how one big snowstorm can really knock us off of our schedule.
If you live in an area where winter weather can impact your workflow, it's important to stay ahead of this possible hurdle. To prevent a snowstorm or other natural events from causing your team to rush projects before the holidays, come up with a winter protocol for your team.
Larry Rodman, a Customer Support Manager, suggests asking your team members to take their laptops and work devices home with them if there's a possibility that your office might close during a storm.
"Always bring everything you need to work home [at the end of the work day], you never know what the weather will be on any given day," Rodman says.
3. Encourage team members to take time off for the holidays.
As a manager, it's important to remember that your employees have a life outside of work and that most people want to take time off during the holiday season.
Rather than making time off seem like a faux pas, you should recognize it as a seasonal norm and make employees feel comfortable with taking a few days off for themselves.
"Be transparent and empathetic with your team. Make sure they are comfortable taking time off at the holidays," says Marketing Director Amanda Sibley.
Sibley encourages her team to share days they plan to take off on the team marketing calendar. However, to prevent her team from losing steam before the holidays, she clearly communicates her expectations to them.
"I ask for 100% effort until they are off," Sibley says. "I often will say something like, 'It's really important to take time off, so I'm glad you all have chosen a week during the holidays! -- Until then, in order for us all to relax and enjoy family time, we need to be at 100%, so please focus until that time!"
4. Give employees a day or even a few hours for holiday errands.
Even when employees know they have upcoming time off, their minds can still wander as they think about all the holiday errands and planning they need to do before the festivities begin. To prevent these personal distractions at work, consider allowing them a few additional hours off to prep for the holidays ahead of time.
"Give time for those who need it to handle the crazy stuff needed for the holidays," suggests Sibley. "What about a half-day in the middle of the week or in early December to do all their holiday shopping when the crowds are less?"
While this will allow people to get ahead of their errands so they don't worry about them during work, Sibley notes that this strategy will depend on the type of team you're managing and their day-to-day work.
5. Celebrate the holidays -- and your team's accomplishments.
Lastly, but definitely not least, embrace the holiday season, celebrate, and end your year on a high note. After all, you and your team have worked hard to achieve your annual goals.
Holiday or end-of-year celebrations allow your team members to bond, review the year's accomplishments, and show gratitude for one another. As a result, this can be a memorable event that really boosts morale.
When planning a celebration or end-of-year meeting, Ryan suggests asking each of your team members to note one individual or group accomplishment that they're most proud of from the past year.
"This is a great chance to remind the team of all the wins you had together over the last 12 months," says Ryan.
Rodman also says he emphasizes team accomplishments at end-of-year celebrations, explaining that rewarding accomplishments can help to motivate your team even after they return from the holidays.
"This year we're having a team potluck while we watch Snoopy Thanksgiving," Rodman shares.
Along with highlighting accomplishments, you should also use this time to bond with your team.
"Have team members share what their holiday plans and traditions are. During this time, let people enjoy the holidays in a work environment," says Sibley.
With the strategy of having team members share traditions or plans, it allows the group to get to know each other better. This type of icebreaker also invites inclusivity as people who might not celebrate common U.S. holidays might have unique or interesting traditions that they'd like to share.
Aside from icebreakers, the most important goal of these events is to have fun and reward your teammates for a great year of hard work.
"Don’t pretend like the holidays aren’t happening. Celebrate with your team," encourages Social Media Manager Kelly Hendrickson.
"Putting a special lunch or a gift swap on the calendar can help teams know they will have time to celebrate," Hendrickson adds. "Knowing there is a specific time for fun, helps focus that holiday spirit."
Get in the Holiday Spirit
It can be easy to forget about how fun the holidays are when you're thinking about end-of-year deadlines. But, as we've seen from HubSpot managers above, getting in the holiday spirit will benefit your mood and your team. Don't be afraid to embrace the pleasantries of this time of year.