If you’ve ever had an office job around late December, you’ve probably observed a few different conundrums that arise. Usually, the week between Christmas and New Year’s is a complete dead zone in offices — at least in terms of physical space being used. Oftentimes, dependent on what day of the week 1/1 is, that next week is the same way. (And heck, sometimes the week before is the same way too.)
This year, the Mondays in question are 12/19, 12/26, and January 2. The 12/26 week likely won’t have many people in-office, and the 12/19 week might begin strong but will fade out around 12/22 or 12/23. Because January 2nd is a Monday, that week will likely be full in many offices — but when January 1 falls mid-week, the week in question is usually a wash.
At this point, we’re talking anywhere from 5-12 working days where people aren’t physically together. And while working remotely has gained in popularity (good!), we all know that 12 business days’ worth of low-context emails (hard to infer tone) flying around isn’t the best recipe for productivity.
Now we come to the central challenge: there is work that needs to be done, but people are in various states of on-grid and off-grid, at relatives’ houses, traveling, etc. as it needs to be done. What’s the secret sauce here?
Set up a process
This doesn’t have to be over-complicated. Managers at a departmental level can have some flexibility around setting what works for their team and their team’s end-of-year deliverables. Essentially, what you’re aiming for here is almost creating an “on-call” situation. For example, on 12/28 (a Wednesday), Tom can be “on-call” in the morning. If any issues come into that department, you know to FWD them to Tom, unless it’s something that you have to take care of (related to an external relationship with a vendor, etc.) At 1pm, Tom goes “off-call” and Jason comes “on-call.” Having a point person for different blocks of time usually makes everyone feel more comfortable.
The low-priority work
We can deny this if we want, but most jobs have a slew of low-priority work. You know what we mean: the stuff you know you need to do, but either (a) don’t have time for or (b) just don’t really want to do. Well look: these weeks are actually a great time to do this work. It’s not the sexiest or coolest thing to be spending the holiday season on digitizing files or SEO audits or something of that nature, but you know come about January 5th, the time simply won’t be there to do these things effectively. Get ‘em done now. No time like the present — and there’s probably not a lot else on your plate.
This is the end of a year for you. Professionally, there were likely a mix of ups and downs. (Always are.) Write down everything and start thinking about how you want to feel at the end of 2017. Do you want a promotion? New responsibilities? Is there a process or product that you want to reinvigorate? Add personal touches too: half-marathons, trips, etc. There’s tons of research out there that visualization is the first step towards success. So visualize 2017. Make it a successful one.
The Reflective Email
People (who know nothing) are fond of saying that you shouldn’t send email marketing campaigns out during the holidays. Er, um, eh. Wrong. You most definitely should — everyone is checking their email during the holidays, whether it’s to check on work fires or avoid their family/friends for 15 minutes. These down periods for in-office are some of the best times for email marketing. Here’s a suggestion. Go into whatever email client you use. Create a segment based on who your best customers are. You can organize this by revenue in 2016, or just use a filter like “Interacted with the last five campaigns.” There are dozens of ways to dice this; we’ll let you decide. But, for your best customers, craft a simple email. Something like:
As 2016 ends, we’re doing a lot of reflecting on our business and how it can provide even more value. How did you think we worked together this year? We’d love to know.
Make it a great 2017,
You can even link out to a survey if you want — but don’t make it too hard to fill out, ‘tis the holidays after all.
If you do an email like this, you’ll probably get lots of responses. People are constantly checking their email but not necessarily seeing other things they need to respond to, so this thoughtfulness might hit them at the right moment. You can get a ton of business intel this way. Consider it — and if you want, repeat the process for some of your worst customers, or people who rolled off from working with you in 2016. You may learn a lot that way as well.
Don’t forget the holidays
People are with their families and friends now. They’re thinking about goals and priorities for 2017. Work isn’t always at the forefront of their brain. Understand and appreciate that, especially in these 2-3 weeks. It’s less about micromanaging and bellowing about end-of-year targets and more about letting people have some time away from the grind. Americans leave 430 million paid vacation days on the table annually — that’s over 1.1 million years being left sitting there each 12 months. If we’re going to do that, well, at least let us have these 2-3 weeks without being on us about every last deliverable.