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Positive vibes and fun events go hand-in-hand with the holiday season. It can also be a time when employees find themselves distracted at work, and perhaps looking ahead to some vacation time at year’s end.

Business leaders will need to find ways to keep employees motivated in the final weeks of the year, as it’s not practical to let several weeks go by with a fraction of the normal output. Yet morale can also take a hit if the pressure is significantly raised. Finding a balance is key.

Here’s a look at some ways CEOs can keep employees motivated throughout the holidays.

Let them experiment

If business experiences naturally slowdown in the last few weeks of the year, it could be a time to allow employees to work on something outside of the norm, whether it’s a pet project or some sort of training exercise. Adding an entertaining element to it can help the motivation factor. In a Fast Company story by Michael Grothaus, Sue Yannaccone of ERA Real Estate says that leaders can help employees “by helping them learn something new in a fun, stress-free way.”

“If there is a skill specific to your business that’s essential for employees to master, turn it into a game or friendly competition rather than bringing them to a seminar,” Yannaccone says in the story. “Or if there is something everyone in the office has been buzzing about — like the ‘escape room’ challenges growing in popularity — take them to a totally out-of-the-box activity or class rather than a traditional holiday party to give them the chance to learn while stepping out of their comfort zone as a team.”

Be thankful

The rush of getting projects done before the year ends, along with the general chaos of the holiday season, can distract business leaders from a major opportunity to show their appreciation for their employees. As Stefan Lewinger, CEO for Sock Fancy, LLC., writes in a story for, “The perfect time to recognize your employees is near the holidays.”

“A simple thank-you card, words of encouragement or any gesture that recognizes the work that your employee does day-to-day will go a long way,” he says. “It will help them feel more motivated to keep producing great results at the end of the year. Genuine recognition costs nothing and can significantly lift an employee’s mood.”

Work-life balance

Here’s something that many professionals struggle with at any time of the year. When you factor in the family time that is a significant part of the holiday season, achieving this balance can be a major challenge. In Grothaus’ story, Kris Duggan of software company BetterWorks says, “As a CEO, I don’t want to take this special time away from employees, but I also expect employees to strive for their goals like any other month.”

“… I encourage managers to set realistic expectations given employees’ travel and vacation schedules this month, and do their best to remove the pressure of a daunting to-do list, especially if things can be pushed to early next year,” Duggan says. “When employees have a streamlined list of goals and objectives, even in the midst of holiday distractions, their motivation to reach those goals stays high.”

Health focus

With the weather getting colder and holiday events featuring an abundance of food and drink, personal health can take a back seat in December. A fun way to keep it in focus — because healthy employees can be happier and more productive — is to incorporate it into the year-end festivities. Alex Debelov, CEO of video marketing firm Virool, described his company’s approach to this in 2014 in a story by Jennifer Lonoff Schiff for

“… I purchased FitBits for everyone in the office for a healthy walking competition amongst the teams,” Debelov said. “Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, everyone will be competing for the most number of steps taken. The winner will receive a year-long gym membership to kick off a healthy and happy 2015.”

Be realistic

Some businesses that aren’t at peak activity level in December may have to brace for a slowdown. But there are still ways to make the office hours worthwhile. In Grothaus’ Fast Company story, Christine Robins of grill company Char-Broil says she chooses to “embrace the fact that year-end is generally unproductive the last few weeks, so plan for it.”

“Set deadlines to wrap up things before the holidays,” she says. “Be realistic about what can get done so expectations are accurately set. Use the end of the year to ‘clean out’ — email, folders, etc. — so that you can come back refreshed at the start of the new year.”

Office flexibility

Though schedules may be rigid throughout the year, it can be smart for CEOs to build in some wiggle room in December. For those in office settings, allowing some working-from-home time may be beneficial, as Clare Bettelley points out in a story for Forbes. And flexibility for working parents — whose schedules can go haywire in December — can be a big help as well.

“This is perhaps the easiest and most cost-effective way in which employers can motivate staff,” Bettelley writes. “Staff with end-of-year targets to hit are likely to greatly value being able to crack on with work in the comfort of their own home and away from the hustle and bustle of the office. Flexible working is particularly useful for staff juggling children and end-of-term school activities, such as that unmissable Christmas play, because it allows them to schedule their work accordingly.”


It may sound obvious, but allowing for some fun in the office can help the good vibes flow through the year’s end. An evening holiday party may work for some businesses, but it can be wise to aim for a luncheon or other event during office hours, so that it’s not adding to the already-packed schedules that employees may face during December. Karen Sams writes about the benefits of celebrating for the National Federation of Independent Business’ website.

“The holiday season is a great time to boost employee morale and communicate your appreciation,” Sams says. “Hosting a holiday party or offering fun activities throughout the season will encourage positivity and employee satisfaction, which is good for productivity overall. It will also give employees a chance to blow off steam, which will help them focus more when they’re working.”