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How To Make The Workday Before A Holiday A Productive One

It’s New Year’s Eve, and everybody at work is daydreaming about their plans for tonight, which means: nothing is getting done. It might seem inevitable to have a wasted workday the day before a holiday, but there is a way to make sure the last day before a day off is productive for the company—just not in the way you might think. It’s true, nobody is going to finish their projects today. But, instead of trying to force everyone to act like it’s just any other day, use this day for team-building, retrospection and goal-setting. After all, it’s the last day of the year—what better time to think about what you’ve accomplished over the year and what you hope to do in the coming year.

If you want your employees to set realistic and achievable goals for the next year that they will actually work towards, you as a manager must structure their reflection and goal-setting. Think about the company’s mission, vision and the types of tasks your employees perform as you create the handout or presentation to guide their contemplation. You want to keep their self-analysis positive, so make sure that you ask the employees to list things they’ve done well in the past year in addition to things they think they could have done better. For each of the things they wish to improve on, have them break into teams of 3-5 of people with similar or related positions to collaborate and discuss possible ways to deal with each of the issues they’ve written down.

After the small group’s members have helped each other brainstorm ways to address the previous year’s issues, have each team member write down one positive thing (work-related if possible) about each person in the group and give it to them to read. This should boost the employees’ self-esteem before they think about their individual goals. Then, break up the groups and have everyone find a quiet place to meditate on their goals for the coming year. Employees should come up with achievable goals that they can accomplish in the first quarter, by the end of the second quarter and by the end of the year. It may also be a fun exercise to have them reflect on their personal goals for the next five and ten years. Instruct the employees to keep a copy of their goals to look at throughout the year, and remind them that these goals will be revisited at the end of the following year.

Now, even non-typical work such as goal-setting and reflection can be hard to focus on the day before a holiday. So, make sure to incorporate plenty of team-building activities and games throughout the day. (A free lunch wouldn’t hurt employee morale either!) Team-building doesn’t have to be just “trust falls” and kum-ba-ya—maybe at your workplace it looks more like a big game of charades or an around-the-office scavenger hunt. Games that get people up and moving around help enliven even the most weary worker. Games where people have to act silly or create something together will get the employees laughing, having fun and cooperating. The social bonds your workers create will foster a supportive work environment that will carry over to future projects.

Sending the employees home on a high note will keep a positive feeling in their hearts as they go home to their families, and they will return to work after the vacation more energized and ready to work. Additionally, after having contemplated their goals and what they want to improve on for the following year, the employees will return to their work more focused. Having a clear idea of how they can be more effective at their jobs will also help fight the post-holiday blues that can often slow worker productivity in January.

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