The holiday season is almost upon us, ho-ho-ho! While this time of the year is certainly about happiness, family and festivities, it is also very much about work. 2018 year-end festivities are of the longer kind, as we see Christmas days falling on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, while New Year’s day is on Tuesday.
This means that not only December has 17,5 working days (subject to country and schedule) but also, that the second half of the month is close to unworkable in the eyes of the employees.
We are often asked about tips on handling work time schedules, overtime and summarized work time during the last month of the year. So, this year, we have decided to do some anonymous analysis and customer interviews to find the best practices. Following is our list of top 10 tips for handling Christmas and New Year working time like a considerate and smart employer!
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s important for your managers to embrace the spirit of the season and acknowledge that it’s a special time. Regardless, whether your business goes into hiatus because all customers are celebrating, or you are neck deep in customers like HoReCa. Managers need to express happiness and support to employees, possibly, more than ever. Team communication will help fix overtime challenges, need for last-minute shift changes and make sure that everyone is back on track in January.
Once your holiday schedules are solid (see below for time scheduling tips), use those as an opportunity to confide with customers. Let them know, which are the working hours and when you are not ready to serve them. Naturally, this can also be used as a sales opportunity: “we stop receiving orders/shipping/booking on December 16.12, please contact us asap”. Open communication will help you stay in an accord and schedule strained employee resources.
Summarized working time is a great tool for companies, allowing to accumulate overtime over quarters and trimesters. Employees, especially in Q4, might see it as a reason for taking unannounced time off in December. E.g. they did 13 hours of overtime on October, 16 in November and now want 27,28 and 31 December off. Having a clear picture of Q4 summarized working hours is very important to avoid such surprises.
While there are differences in handling days before public holidays in EU, most countries shorten these by several hours (3 in Estonia). There are several days in December, which may be a subject to these rules (like 23,31) meaning that some employees might have their monthly working hours reduced further, besides the Christmas days. It’s also important to point out that, if some of your employees are in a different EU country during the time, local rules may apply to them.
Almost no matter what you do, some people are going to be sick, on sudden holiday or plain missing on these dates (as well as holidays). Consider your past experiences and schedule a few extra workers for these dates, just in case. Alternatively – agree on a standby duty with more reliable employees.
You will pay them a small fee (0.25-0.5 of normal wage) in exchange for them being ready to come out and work (full benefits). This normally means that employee has their phone around and does not drink while expecting to be summoned. Such standby work also is fairer towards those who “always” get called in, when that colleague is sick, again.
Employees are going to be more distracted than usual at the end of December. Looking for gifts, arranging meetings with friends and family… All of that will somehow need to be handled during working time. Again, there is really no fighting this, so you should try to use it as a way to improve employee relations. Schedule extra/longer breaks and consider shorter/more flexible shifts, if business allows. Employees will appreciate this and also could be persuaded to take care of their personal matters during breaks and not actual work time.
Summarized working time or not, overtime is quite common during holidays. Since this is the last month of the quarter, most companies will have to settle and pay for accrued overtime already in January. Furthermore, people might be blatantly against doing overtime in December unless… you pay them in hard cold cash immediately after the shift with a premium on top of regular 2x pay. While this may seem slightly “disloyal”, it’s not that big of a deal, if your company is prepared.
Use this as an advantage: being able to earn tens or hundreds of euros at the end of December “here and now” may be huge for some employees. You might save their holidays this way and earn lasting gratitude by allowing them to buy an extra present to their family or such. They might be bad-mouthing you for forcing them to work on a holiday publicly, but in their hearts, they will praise Santa for this unexpected but very timely cash gift for a measly dozen overtime hours. The only thing needed is for overtime cash pay ground rules for managers to be laid down by your accountant.
This holiday is about family and kids, so they will always come first. Make sure that employees with kids are comfortable with schedules and, if possible, consider allowing to make the 2nd half of December “Bring your kid to work” season. A few gift baskets and maybe a Santa cameo are going to be remembered. Also, mums/dads who to try to entertain kids 24⁄7 at home due to schools/kindergartens being closed, will appreciate a chance to schedule some lieu-time for themselves, as their better halves take the kids to work.
Work time during and between holidays can become quite hectic. There is also the added pressure of extra pay. E.g. employees who worked on holidays will be really looking forward to those big paychecks for their overtime hours during holidays. The worst thing, which can happen is them not getting what they deserve, because a manager forgot to check them in or mention that overtime was approved. The easiest way to fix this is by creating a central place in timesheets where your managers and employees can make comments about work shifts. These can be reviewed later by payroll accountants to avoid unnecessary work time-related conflicts.
Last, but not least, you should take the 2018 holiday work schedule as a learning opportunity. How was your scheduling? Was overtime handled properly? Did timesheets provide correct information for payroll? Were managers and employees happy with work time arrangements? This is extremely important because 2019 holiday worktime is going to be even crazier: 24,25,26 are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday respectively, while 1st of January is a Wednesday. If you struggle this year, believe me, 2019 holiday season work time schedule is going to be even tougher.
So, rephrasing an Estonian proverb: Smart businessman schedules Year-end holidays at the start of the year.
Holidays are a wonderful and joyful time of the year. There is no need to feel that they make work time scheduling a nightmare. Just make sure that you have prepared for overtime, absence and other eventualities.
Begin has done it’s best to be the best tool for work time scheduling during 2018 Christmas and New Year, as well as years to come.