At that time of year again. For many members of the IT team, the holiday season provides a welcome break to reflect on recent accomplishments and strengthen bonds with family, friends, and colleagues. IT leaders often look at the last days of the year somewhat differently. For them, this can also be a time when they miss a deadline and crash into productivity.
The holiday season can be a stressful time in our personal lives and compounding that stress in our work lives with year-end deadlines can be a recipe for disaster, says Emma McGratan, senior vice president of engineering at Actian, a mixed data management software company. “There are few IT teams who can lay off work during the holiday period, so as IT leaders we have to make it easy for our teams to be productive during this time.”
People vs Productivity
Personal and professional life often collide head-on during the holiday seasons, as employees try to socialize at the same time and meet year-end work deadlines, says Brittany Lotts, an analyst at Info-Tech Research Group. I noticed that IT productivity is closely related to engagement. “If you want a productive team, get them involved,” Lotus advises.
To ensure maximum engagement and productivity during the holidays, IT leaders should plan ahead, suggests Kaushik Rai, Senior Vice President, Global Customer Service Department, data recovery provider Sungard Availability Services. “IT leaders must prepare for when their team will exit either by moving workloads to other locations or preparing to reduce productivity if [they] You don’t have that choice,” he says.
McGratan notes that it’s helpful to encourage team members to incorporate inevitable distractions into their vacation plans. “By allocating this time in their flexible schedule, they won’t feel guilty about the time they spend away from work projects,” she explains. “They will already know that the appropriate amount of work time is also on their schedule.”
Offering some kind of flexible working arrangement for managers and employees can reduce productivity losses at the end of the year, says AJ Jones, vice president of digital technology at Raytheon Intelligence & Space. “We understand the work and life needs of employees, and we are committed to providing flexibility to support the diverse needs of our team and our business,” he notes. “We know that the term ‘flexibility’ can have different meanings for different people and that’s why we offer a variety of flexible working arrangements, including flextime, compressed work weeks and modified scheduling.” Jones adds that his organization strives to help its teams become productive and feel connected, no matter where each team member works. “With the strength of our IT teams, we empower our employees to do just that.”
Chris Matman, chief technology and innovation officer at NASA JPL, says his organization’s policy is to allow managers and employees to take as much time as they feel they need to be with their families. To make up for the greater number of absentees, he recruited a few managers and researchers to “keep the lights on” during this period. He notes that “a good reputation gained by allowing people the space they need with their families eliminates minimal lost short-term productivity”.
Lotus recommends that managers strive to become results-driven rather than time-driven, particularly during the holiday season. “This type of trust allows your employees to strengthen their relationship with their managers, meet key accomplishments or metrics, and attend the many social gatherings that occur at this time of year,” she says. “Doing so empowers your employees to feel empowered, which increases their interaction with the organization.”
Matman believes that the greatest employee distraction typically occurs when managers and teams return to their jobs immediately after the holidays. Acknowledge that getting them back to regular rhythm can be a challenge. “Rely on meetings again; have some coordination and then tactical and strategic meetings.” “Give them a lively project to kick off the new year, and also a project with some short-term payoff that can motivate them to move forward.”
McGratan says most IT leaders who have been caring about the mental health of their teams during the COVID-19 pandemic may have noticed that empowered and confident employees reduce a lot of stress. “Lessons learned during that time will position us well during tough times ahead, such as the holiday season,” she notes.
As people leaders, IT chiefs need to think about their team members holistically and look for early indications of stress and other issues that can affect their well-being,” McGratan advises. “Health, especially mental health, is fragile, and once broken it is difficult to put it back together again. “
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