How to manage workflows of skeleton staff over the Christmas period

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Source: Unsplash/Sigmund.

While many people are saying ‘yay!’ that 2021 is coming to a close and are looking forward to 2022, some business owners and CEOs are currently worrying about how they’re going to manage workflows with skeleton staff over the Christmas period.

As with most things, planning and communication is key when it comes to staff and the festive season. At the top of the list is planning ahead, sharing your plans with staff and customers, being up front early with staff around leave expectations, assessing customer demand and knowing your minimum staffing requirements. Another factor to consider is if you’ll be shut down totally or just closed to the public/customers and if a hybrid workplace model will work better over the festive season.

When it comes to maintaining a business with skeleton staff, you’re basically assessing what you can achieve with the least amount of resources available for a set period. While a lot of businesses are already running lean, the festive season can be a time of year where technology and time management become crucial.

During this period, you need to be realistic about deadlines and set those expectations with your customers and staff. For example, if your customers expect your standard two-day turnaround, but your turnaround gets pushed out to a week or more without any prior notice, you’re going to end up with some unhappy customers.

Most people know and understand that Christmas is a busy period so they expect a small delay, but if running a skeleton staff is going to blow out your usual turnaround times, you need to reassess your staffing levels and also notify your customers well in advance as they’ll also have timelines they need to meet.

Meeting deadlines also means you need to look at time management, of yourself and your staff, which may include prioritising tasks during this period. Perhaps during the Christmas period some tasks don’t get completed until all staff are back from leave. Also look to see if there are any tasks that can be pre-completed prior to team members going on leave. Managing time efficiently can be the difference between a stressful and not-so stressful festive season.

If your business currently runs the traditional office-based workplace model, switching to a hybrid workplace model or hyper flexible model may be beneficial over the Christmas period. The hyper flexible model gives workers the most flexibility and choice as it allows for a personalised and tailored approach for each worker. The hyper flexible model also includes flexibility not just in when and where workers come into the office, if it all, but a work schedule that doesn’t revolve around the traditional nine to five. The hyper flexible model can be beneficial for staff whose kids are on school holidays and also where their role doesn’t require a standard approach.

No matter your workplace model, or the technology being used, remember communication is key between your team. Let everyone know who is covering whose role, and make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to time management and meeting customer expectations.

If you find you don’t quite get it right this year, remember to make notes of what worked and what didn’t work so that you can change your processes for next year. This could include putting policies in place around leave at Christmas time, especially if there needs to be a better balance between seniority of roles and management/executive staff, or implementing the much-needed CRM and project management system.

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