Are you concerned about your team’s focus or productivity during the holidays?  

The dreaded Q4 productivity slump. Despite the increased joy and excitement of the holiday season, this time of year marks a period when productivity and engagement often decline at work. Many managers, supervisors, and executives look at the months preceding these many celebrations with trepidation.

2022 has already seen a distinct decline in employee engagement. The distractions and stresses that come with the holiday season only exacerbate the issue. But that doesn’t mean work can grind to a halt! For many industries (e.g., retail) the holiday season is even the busiest time.

So what is the key to keeping your team productive during the holidays? In our experience with executive leaders across countless cultures and industries, we have found that several factors are crucial for successful leadership during the holidays.

Start with Human-Centric Leadership 

Taking a human-centric approach to leadership may be even more important during the holiday season than it is year round. This leadership method involves a variety of sometimes complex or abstract soft skills, attitudes, and ways of communicating that demonstrate that you care about the well-being of your people. Treating each team member as a unique individual, rather than a faceless, nameless number or cog in a machine, is the human-centered dynamic demanded by today’s workforce and required by today’s leaders.

Human-centric leadership is key to a positive, productive, and successful holiday season. Skills, behaviors, and strategies required to employ this method generously and authentically are discussed below.

Attune to Individual Needs and Holiday-Related Stress 

One of the soft skills necessary for human-centric leadership is being attuned to the needs of team members, especially to signs of distress. Team members aren’t likely to directly share these concerns. Instead, a manager or leader must be attentive to signs of mental fatigue, distress, and the “holiday blues” all of which are genuine challenges during the holiday season.

As a leader, you can attune to your team member’s needs through consistent use of these three practices: 

  1. Listen actively and with empathy. Show authentic, regular interest in your team’s lives as a whole – not just in their work position. Show empathy for their struggles, even if initially it is a challenge for you to understand. Be sure to maintain eye-contact, nod to show understanding, ask questions, and repeat back what you heard them say. It isn’t always about providing a solution, but simply being heard.

  2. Provide mental health resources. If your company’s HR department provides counseling or other mental health professional care, it’s important to encourage the team to avail themselves of it when needed. Team members should never be discouraged from or pressured to skip a resource like this. In the absence of such an option, there are a variety of third party resources to access. Websites such as the Center for Workplace Mental Health offer a plethora of tools for employers to share with employees.

  3. Express care. As much as you may be concerned about the holiday stresses, there are also so many joys to celebrate. Share your team’s holiday-related experiences, whatever they may be. A person’s emotions are valid and important to you.


While some of these topics are nuanced and require you to tread carefully, cultivating a compassionate attitude is a big step. People who feel connected with leadership are more likely to be open about what they need to succeed.

Encourage Work-Life Balance 

Though the final quarter of the year may have major deadlines, it is still important to support your team to have a healthy work-life balance.

  • Encourage them to unplug after a certain time of day and respect that work-related contact is over after this point.

  • Remind remote members to maintain dedicated workspaces, and to take regular breaks that are (ideally) active.

  • Force yourself not to micro-manage.

Supporting your team’s work and life balance should be a real priority. Sometimes this will mean adjusting or triaging projects where necessary. Data suggests that allowing employees to maintain a balance between life and work actually increases their productivity during working hours.

Be Fully Present 

Your presence as a leader is one of the most important factors impacting your team. This is especially true for helping individuals be productive during the holidays. When your team is eager to begin their holiday vacation, the absence of leadership may make them feel resentful – even if you’re doing work! In a remote working world it’s easy to forget check-ins or to get swept up by your own task load, but the impact of being distant from your team during the holidays can be damaging.

Stay present by

  • providing frequent affirmation or highlighting individual team members

  • giving feedback

  • being available to answer questions

It’s important to lead by example. Model how you as a leader, balance your workload and personal life. Practice what you preach. Remember to unplug or take a technology break. Avoid sending messages or emails outside working hours.

Being an example of good balance gives your team silent permission to feel ok about balancing their own life.

Thoughtful, Customized Incentives  

Implementing creative workplace incentives that are thoughtful such as games, celebrations, competitions, and awards can be a great way to spur engagement and stay productive during the holidays.

This does not necessarily mean you should incentivize productivity during the holidays. Rather, the goal is to incentivize engagement and collaboration. Creating incentives exclusively for productivity, especially during the holidays, can generate negative outcomes such as burnout, unhealthy competition, and resentment from individuals (as they will quickly recognize management’s ulterior motives). While healthy competition can be productive, it’s important to avoid pitting team members against each other. Instead, leaders can feed camaraderie by creating team and company-wide goals to strive towards together. 

Focusing on incentivizing engagement will often result in happier employees who are then more productive during the holidays.

Have a Game Plan for Returning To Work  

Getting back to work after an extended period of celebration, rest and relaxation can be difficult. That’s why it’s so important to have a game-plan for returning to work! 

Easing back into work requires management to engage in the process actively and intentionally. It’s beneficial for your first focus to be on company culture before diving headlong into work. This provides a cushion that lets your team feel valued and welcomed back, instead of bombarded or feeling punished for their time off.

Prepare Now for a Productive Holiday Season

The soft skills needed to accomplish these strategies do not come naturally to every leader, but the good news is… they can be learned! A human-centric leadership approach is enhanced by executive coaching. That’s why a big part of Churchill’s focus as we developed our highly effective leadership coaching programs was on the nuanced skills of human-centric leadership.

Want to learn more about growing as an organizational coach/leader, or leveling up your abilities as a leader? We have resources for that! Follow these links for more information on how you can reach the next level as a business leader.

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