For retail businesses, now starts the biggest time of the year. In fact, many retail chains report doing about 90% of their sales from now through the New Year. But for the rest of us, the Monday or Tuesday before Thanksgiving is pretty much the last day of the year any business will get done. Break out the bubbly, the year is as good as over.

Though many like to deny it to the board, employee productivity drops significantly during this time. It’s not just the Holidays to blame. Depleted budgets, holiday parties, “use it or lose it” vacations, associated family events, school closings, not to mention the flu season being in full bloom all add to making December the most infuriating month for upper management.
Perhaps the most frustrating part of this is for most of us who despite the temptation to slough off, procrastinate, and avoid, do the opposite during this time. We work harder in fact to meet those end of year deadlines. We have the reports ready, but nobody’s ready to read them. We have the contracts ready but good luck getting them signed. I bet you say it every year: “Am I the only one around here who works during December?!”

Some businesses now throw their hands up and close from just prior to Christmas until after the New Year. Many small businesses have always done this. The vast majority though, particularly here in the US insist on keeping their doors open employing a skeleton crew. Hospital workers, customer service reps, and wait staff can only dream. I don’t know what the statistics are on this but I’m willing to bet it costs some companies more money and certainly more frustrations from Christmas to New Year’s who stay open. And for those of you who associate more with Scrooge than Fezziewig, consider the studies to the contrary.

I’ve always been envious of friends who worked for advertising agencies as it was commonplace to have Fridays off during the summer. The knowledge of that was not only a morale booster for them but a productivity booster during the previous four days. So more work was done, more business was made, employees were happy. A win-win situation.

Many European companies close during the month of August for vacation but that’s just not going to happen in the States. Ever. A business-free December may not be much closer on the horizon. But before I receive all those angry comments from the bottom-liners out there, I do not think it would make sense for all businesses. I’m thankful not to see “Closed for The Holidays” signs on the doors of my local fire department, hospital and gas station for example. However, I think that same win-win caveat would be created for many businesses who viewed the winter holidays less as a necessary evil and more as a way to reward and create an incentive for their employees.