Christmas and the New Year can be the perfect time to reward staff for their hard work. But sometimes it is best to look beyond the ‘traditional’ Christmas incentives such as yearly bonuses or a big office party.

Many companies still hold a large Christmas party as a part of the annual celebration – but is it really worth it? For some businesses this is ingrained in the culture and is a popular part of the company calendar. But for others it’s a large expense with little benefit. There are plenty of options that could be far better.

Let’s look at some of the best ways to reward your staff over Christmas and the New Year.

Christmas lunch

Holding a large Christmas party is often very expensive and may not really provide your staff with the kind of boost to morale that you are hoping for. Holding a big celebration, often in somewhere that’s difficult for staff to get to and back from, can be a bit of a pain, even when you’re being generous enough to offer food and drink.

It might be better to provide smaller Christmas parties, such as a Christmas lunch. It allows staff to get out of the office for an extended lunch, which they may enjoy more than an evening party. It can also end up being far less expensive for you.

Flexible working

Some businesses like to give employees the chance for a longer period of time off over Christmas if they can get all of their outstanding work done. Of course this isn’t practical or even possible for every business. If extra time off can’t work for you and your staff, you could consider allowing the team to work their hours flexibly.

This could be a nice touch if it gives your team the chance to go out and get Christmas shopping done or other tasks that can be tricky over the Christmas period.

Link rewards to performance

While most employers want to treat their staff well, it’s also important to recognise that for the majority of businesses, Christmas and the New Year is a very important financial period. It’s completely understandable that businesses don’t necessarily want to encourage too easy-going an attitude over this time – but they still want their staff to enjoy their time at work. So why not get the best of both worlds and incentivise good performance over this time? If staff members perform well they can achieve a larger bonus or even gain additional time off.

Businesses often cannot afford to see their sales drop off at this crucial time, so there is no harm in setting achievable targets and have staff work towards them. This provides them with a goal and achieving it will bring a reward and boost morale.

Take the time to say thank you

It sounds cheesy, but it makes an enormous difference to an employee when a manager or boss takes the time out of their day to personally thank them for their hard work. Remember that your staff are putting in a lot of effort to get everything done. Having you recognise these efforts raises morale and motivation at this crucial time.

You could even take the time to give out awards for exceptional performance across the year, this can show staff that their hard work is valued.

Ask them what they would like

Let your staff create their own Christmas wish list. We’re not talking about gifts necessarily, but rather let them have their say on what would be most beneficial to them over the festive period. Try to come to a consensus – would they prefer to have shortened hours? Or a full extra day off if they can get all the work done? Are they fussed about a big Christmas party? Would that money be better spent on some sort of alternative treat?

It’s always better to gauge the mood of your staff rather than trying to prescribe a Christmas reward that no-one really wants. Not only will this raise morale simply from the perspective that you took the time to think about what people would like – it also ultimately provides staff with a Christmas reward that they prefer.

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About the author:

Mike James, an independent writer and business consultant partnering with staff management specialist Planday on this and a number of other small business advice related articles.