This argument won’t add up on paper. The ones and zeros will render this idea moot in the short term. But the argument itself exists in the reality that we have reduced ourselves to what adds up on paper and what does not. In a year that has pushed, tested, and tried every single person on the planet in some way or another, now more than ever our wellbeing is at stake. And the wellbeing of our employees is the wellbeing of our companies.
It appears we have forgotten the most fundamental element of our businesses. Our people. We may attempt to prioritize employee wellbeing and company morale with Zoom happy hours and special benefit packages. But this again appears to be an algorithmic attempt, missing entirely on the human element. We are all struggling in a myriad of ways; no system can truly account for that.
As 2020 comes to a close, as deadlines loom and people press to get to the holidays, the futures of our companies are on the line. With all the compounding stressors, there are likely severe health and social consequences in 2021 if we don’t act now.
Only half of workers feel their employers care about their wellbeing. While 71% of employers feel they care about their workers, only 50% of workers feel their companies care about them (Mercer)
According to the American Psychological Association, nearly 1 in 5 adults (19%) say their mental health is worse than it was at this time last year. By generation, 34% of Gen Z adults report worse mental health, followed by Gen X (21%), millennials (19%), boomers (12%), and older adults (8%). Gen Z adults are the most likely to report experiencing common symptoms of depression. More than 7 in 10 noting that in the prior two weeks, they felt so tired that they sat around and did nothing (75%), felt very restless (74%), found it hard to think properly or concentrate (73%), felt lonely (73%), or felt miserable or unhappy (71%).
Start the Year Better Than You Finished It
The way you push your employees to finish the year will directly impact your company’s start in 2021. Historically, January is the least productive month of the year. Following the most productive three months of the year—September, October, November—productivity drops significantly in December (from 9.5% completing tasks in October to 8% in December) and reaches its weakest point in January. According to Redbooth, we complete only 7.2% of our yearly tasks in January; that’s 25% less productive than October.
What’s more, productivity dwindles in December as the holiday season approaches. According to an IZA World of Labor survey, approximately six in ten admitted their productivity noticeably declines in the week before Christmas. One-third of workers say they “check out” because of the natural decline in activity that many businesses experience as the holidays approach.
In the weeks preceding the holidays, four in ten people are online shopping instead of working, while one-third are planning Christmas day or their holiday break. Perhaps more alarmingly, 16% admitted to drinking on the job. And this data was gathered in years prior to the pandemic.
Return in January More Refreshed
By giving time back to employees, you may lose out on hitting numbers. You may not get that last marketing campaign out. You may even fall behind on the latest product launch. But the gain is less visible than the numbers initially suggest.
Closing the office for more days during the holidays has a direct and positive impact on productivity. According to a Harvard Business Review survey, employees at companies that close additional days are significantly more likely to report higher productivity (42% compared to 17% in offices that don’t shut down outside of federal holidays). What’s more, employees report increased satisfaction and productivity leading into the new year. And in a tight job market, that ROI is very real.
With December a few days away, clearly giving the month off is out of the question. What you can do, however, is consider giving more time back to employees in the month ahead. Perhaps offering the last two weeks of the month off or Fridays off throughout the month. Or alternatively, drive an increase in productivity in early December with a little motivation by offering employees time off as soon as tasks are completed for the year.
Employee Wellbeing Is Worth the Additional Time Off
The end of 2020 doesn’t need to wreak havoc on the start of 2021. While the ROI may not initially tally up on paper, giving significant time off in December is a real opportunity to boost productivity and morale as we enter perhaps the most crucial time in history: recovery from 2020. Suppose you prioritize your people and their wellbeing and show them your dedication in more impactful ways than Thursday (un)happy hours. In that case, you’ll ultimately help your employees and the business shake the dust off this mess of a year and start 2021 with a bang.