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Surviving the Holiday Productivity Slump

3645214132_b747250978December is always such a mess, especially when it comes to being productive at work. People have a lot going on during the holidays, from lighting up blow-mold Santas to airing their grievances around the Festivus pole to trying to keep from being the guy with the lampshade on his head at the company Christmas party. But just because there’s a lot going on this month is no reason to get sloppy at work.

According to an Institute for Corporate Productivity study, 62 percent of companies reported that workplace productivity tends to tank a bit during the holiday season. And with all of those office parties, Secret Santa exchanges, blinking lights, spinning dreidels and It’s a Wonderful Life marathons (not to mention the looming apocalypse), it can be hard to feel focused and productive.

If your employees have some PTO burning a hole in their pocket and you know there’s not going to be much to do, why not let them take some time off? They’ll come back in January feeling refreshed and engaged — unless they spent their entire vacation with their extended family.

But if time off isn’t an option and there’s work that needs to be done, give employees the option to work from home and avoid the distraction of stir-crazy co-workers and the endless barrage of asinine holiday activities around the office (holiday coloring contests, anyone? I got first place in 2004). Away from the seasonal dysfunction, people can focus on what’s important: Wearing pajama pants while they make spreadsheets. The cat can help.

If employees have to be in the office around the holidays, try to keep some structure without being too overbearing. Everyone has a lot on their mind — finishing holiday shopping, getting the house ready for visitors, planning how to avoid trying Aunt Edna’s fruitcake — so try throwing in some perks like longer lunches or fun, low-key activities to give workers a break, or letting people leave early if they’ve finished their work for the day.

December is weird enough as it is. Make it as painless as possible with a little flexibility and planning — and give your employees one less thing to complain about around the Festivus pole.