For many employees, the holidays offer a welcome break in routine. But for team leaders, the last few weeks of December put a pin in their team’s productivity.
When so many people take off at the same time, it leaves the few remaining souls at the office with a ton of work on their plates. They need to get more work than usual done, and in less time.
Every second they spend in their typical in-person daily standups (that would otherwise help them track progress) eats away at time they could be using to pore through their mountains of work.
Frequent checkins are an important part of ensuring individuals are on track to meet their goals and working as a team. But especially when the holidays roll around, managers need to alter how they run standups and create additional support, without sacrificing their employees’ time or autonomy.
Here are some ways to revive your daily standups and simplify your workflow during holiday madness.
Transfer knowledge easily in your standups
Daily standups are a useful way to check in with your team. But since standups are not typically documented, it’s easy for valuable info to get lost in translation.
Without regularly documenting your progress on a task or knowledge about a customer, offices can unintentionally create knowledge hoarders. When those people are out of the office, it backlogs the individuals trying to cover them, because they can’t reach the information they need.
There are a bunch of different productivity tools that can help you write up documentation, but only a few that centralize all of your information and empower individuals to feel autonomous as they find the info they need. Here are a few ideas:
- Front puts all of your team’s email exchanges with customers in one central inbox. This means anyone on your team can search through it, discover old emails, and find the info and context they need to complete new tasks.
- ReadMe.io provides simple documentation templates—intended for developers to document their APIs, but they can be used by anyone. Their templates also allow readers to “Suggest Edits” when necessary.
The simplest solution to knowledge hoarding is by documenting everything. When your employees have all the information they need at their fingertips, they will work faster and feel autonomous doing it.
Pass the “responsibility” torch smoothly
Employees often try to minimize holiday-work stress by working a ton before their vacation. They’ll go above and beyond to meet their deadlines, and find others to tie up their (hopefully few) loose ends. But just because other employees can cover for their vacationing colleagues doesn’t mean the rest of your team knows who’s taking over what, and for how long.
To avoid overwhelming the employees who stay put, managers can start implementing better ways to accommodate and organize the additional responsibilities of employees who remain at the office. A few suggestions:
- Individuals need to let their teammates and managers know their exact vacation dates at least two weeks in advance. Do this simply by putting vacation days on a central calendar, like via Google Calendar and sharing their time off events with a shortcut like “everyone,” and naming whoever’s covering them in the event description.
- Track progress of individual tasks using Teamwork. The “Project Management” tool lets teams assign tasks to different members of the same team. It’s easy to re-assign tasks from people who will be out of the office, and tag the employees covering for their vacationing colleagues. This is a great way to not only keep track of who’s covering for whom generally, but to track progress on particular tasks.
- Consider closing the office if there are days that a significant portion of your team is taking off—like Christmas Eve. Having so few people at the office means people can’t move their work through your pipeline efficiently, and poses logistical challenges like: “who will open the office door at 8:30am?”
The more you can plan for a large group of employees being absent, the sooner you can start to make changes that will ease everyone’s workflow.
Make it easy to work from home
Having a flexible work-from-home policy allows employees to be present with their families, without giving up vacation days or sacrificing time towards an upcoming deadline.
It’s important to accommodate employees who want to work from home, especially during the holidays. Regardless of season, people who work from home are more productive. Travel time is cut, and provides fewer distractions than most workplaces. If your team already uses a plethora of online tools, there’s no reason not to make working from home easy.
But for employees working from home during the holidays, it’s hard to strike the right balance between simultaneously producing meaningful work, being accessible to your teammates, and being ready to help family. Here’s how to get this balance right:
- Employees on the clock should be accessible at all times, in a channel that lets them disable notifications when necessary. It can be as minimal as enabling Slack push notifications on your phone enabled for @mentions of your name. As long as your team can see that you’re available to answer questions in some capacity, they’ll know they can reach out to you with pressing questions. That said, employees at the office should use forms that require immediate gratification sparingly, so interruptions happen minimally.
- Asynchronize your checkins. Instead of relying on daily standups when people are traveling during the day or visiting family in different timezones, I Done This lets you check in with your team asynchronously. It sends email reminders to teammates at the end of the day to fill out their “dones,” “goals,” and “blockers.” The following morning, your team will receive a full report with everyone’s updates.
For employees working from home, it’s all about balancing communication and accountability with actually getting work done. With the right channels in play to minimize interruptions, this can be easy to accomplish.
Time’s running out
Setting employees up for success—whether they’re at home, at the office, or on vacation—makes for a productive work environment, even amidst the holiday chaos.
For these policies and tool suggestions to help your team, they need to be implemented ASAP. So get to work!
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