Let’s Talk Business for December 1, 2023

The end-of-year holidays can be a tricky time for small businesses. On one hand, November through January is the peak shopping season and the window when restaurants and retail merchants can capitalize on sales. On the other hand, you and your team are ready for a break. Many employees save their paid time off for this part of the year when schools are on holiday and many clients are also on leave.

No matter whether this is your busy season or a quieter time, it’s likely that you’ll need to adjust your work scheduling during the holidays. Setting up employee schedules around the holidays can be a delicate balancing act. Start planning early to make sure you can accommodate as many requests as possible while still covering your shifts.

Ask each individual which holidays are most significant for them, as well as whether they’re willing to work on certain holidays in return for having others off. Use these conversations to also establish if there are specific days that must be worked no matter what. Clearly setting these expectations early helps your team adjust their own plans. Make sure you also communicate how employees should submit their vacation requests and if there’s a deadline by which they should ask for approval.

Many service professionals experience a natural lull in business during the holidays. While retailers and the hospitality industry get extra-busy, the opposite is true for law firms, real estate agencies, accountants, and other service providers. It may actually be financially wise to close your business altogether during the holidays. If you can afford to, consider offering the whole time off during this season. Weigh the costs of staying open — including utilities and other overhead — with the benefits of improved morale and the chance to recharge by closing your office.

If you know you’ll need people to be available during the holidays, consider offering flexible work or remote work. Finding ways to work flexibly helps everyone, and you may already have a remote or hybrid work policy. Revisit it to determine if anything needs to change during the holidays. Some employees may need more flexible hours to accommodate school holiday schedules, for instance.

Availability is just one part of holiday scheduling. You also need to ensure whoever is on call is equipped to handle running the business. Provide them with any training they might need well in advance and ensure the employees taking leave prepare handover instructions where necessary.

The best holiday gift–as well as the best incentive for prospective hires–may well be a thoughtful holiday season work policy. What can you do to make the season more rewarding and less stressful for you, your employees, and your customers?

The Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce offers many resources to help you start, run, and grow your business–including our annual Leadership Emporia Academy, monthly Group Lunches, Ribbon Cuttings, Business After Hours events, Legislative Dialogues, and more. Stop by the Trusler Business Center at 719 Commercial St., call 620-342-1600, or visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org to learn more.

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“Let’s Talk Business” is a weekly column of the Emporia Area Chamber of Commerce and Visit Emporia. The mission of the Chamber is to be proactive in creating an environment for business and community success, guided by the vision that positive attitudes promote positive actions. Contact us at 620-342-1600 or chamber@emporiakschamber.org and visit our website at www.emporiakschamber.org.