The workforce that Christmas forgot

Traditionally Christmas is the time of year when people want to wind down and focus on family and friends, however new research from Kronos has revealed that most UK employees won’t enjoy the festive period this year as a direct result of work demands.

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The research, commissioned by Kronos, and carried out by Censuswide, revealed that more than half (51%) of UK employees cited job demands as the main reason they are unable to get into the Christmas spirit. At the heart of this problem is that more than a third (37.4%) of people have no choice over their work schedules during the festive period. In fact,1 in 5 people have to work on Christmas Day and New Year’s day.
Neil Pickering, industry and customer insights manager, Kronos,
“Organisations that go the extra mile at Christmas to ensure workers remain motivated, productive and engaged will reap the rewards. It is important that employers start by listening to their employee needs and preferences and act upon the information to create fair and equitable work schedules. While not everyone can enjoy flexible working or extra holidays during the busiest time of the year; being fair, transparent and empowering employees to make decisions that balance the needs of the business and their personal lives will make your organisation stand out when attracting or retaining the best talent.”
So just how far would people go to avoid the stresses of Christmas working?
The research showed a quarter of people would be prepared to give up a bank holiday from another time in the year just to have that extra day off over Christmas.
Gender also influences the lengths people would go to for more time off over Christmas. Women are more likely to choose to work twice the hours at a different time of the year, than work over the Christmas period, while the men questioned would prefer to take a pay cut or even pay a colleague to work in their place.
The UK is on the whole a country of conscientious workers, but the research found that a third of men (31%) have faked a sickie to get in some last minute shopping or recover from a boozy Christmas party, compared to only a fifth of women.

However, attitudes to Christmas are not just split around gender. The research also highlighted a very clear generational shift, with Millennials and Generation Y valuing time off at Christmas more highly than their older counterparts. Unfortunately they are the least likely to get the shifts that they want over this period (45%). Perhaps this is reflected in the fact that they are most likely to fake a “sickie” at Christmas (89%) than any other age-group.

So how can businesses strike the right employee work/life balance over Christmas?
Happy employees work harder, so it is critical that businesses focus on providing the tools and motivation to the workforce which will keep them engaged and invested in their roles during the Christmas period. To do this, they must first understand what their employees want. This research highlights key areas where employers need to focus.
Employees respond positively to having more control over their work schedules. Giving employees short-term, flexi-hours for example (start early/leave early, start late/leave late) will allow them to balance work with shopping, parties and being with their family in the run up to Christmas.
This not only reduces the chances of the workforce taking sick leave but employees that have more control over their work/life balance are happier in their jobs and are likely to be more productive and work more conscientiously. Some employees will choose to work the overtime hours that others don’t, so having open, honest conversations and a transparent scheduling system will help to manage this more effectively.
If flexi hours are not possible, there are plenty of other festive ways organisations can incentivise employees in the run up to Christmas. Whether that’s relaxing the staff dress code or introducing some fun into the day with festive music or games. Raising morale over the Christmas period is essential. For target led businesses, introducing ad-hoc prizes for employees who hit their targets over the Christmas period could help encourage them to work more efficiently.
The results are in some ways surprising, but it also provides an opportunity for businesses to respond, and where possible, find alternative ways of organising employees over Christmas. Happy employees are not only more productive and engaged, they are also more likely to become loyal and conscientious ambassadors, reducing staff turnover as well as the risk and cost of having to recruit and train new people.

Survey Data

  • The real story of Christmas – Over half (51 percent) of UK employees cited job demands as the main reason they are unable to fully get into the Christmas spirit.

    • More than a third (37.4 percent) of employees have no control over their work schedules during the festive period.

    • In the UK, one in five have to work on Christmas Day and/or New Year’s Day.

    • A quarter of those employed in the UK have to work on Boxing Day.

    • More than two in five people (44 percent) find it difficult to juggle work and family life at this time of year.

    • A third (33 percent) of people must work at least one a day over the Christmas period when they would prefer not to.

  • Gender gap – There is a big difference in the sacrifices men and women will make to get time off over Christmas.

    • Forty percent of women surveyed would prefer to give up bank holidays at other times of the year or work twice their contracted hours for a week than work over the Christmas period.

    • A quarter of men would prefer to take a pay cut or pay a colleague to work in their place over Christmas.

    • Men are more likely to “pull a sickie” than women, with nearly a third (31 percent) of men consider taking an unplanned day off to complete last minute shopping or recover from the staff Christmas party, compared to only one-fifth (20 percent) of women.

  • A generation game – The different generational attitudes to Christmas are stark, with Millennials and Generation Z valuing time off at Christmas more highly than their older counterparts.

    • Millennials and Generation Y are the least likely to get the shifts that they want over this period (45 percent), and they are the age group most likely to “pull a sickie” at Christmas (89 percent).

  • Sector splits – There are significant differences in how employees feel about working over Christmas, depending on the sector they work in.

    • Retail and healthcare employees work the most over Christmas, though surprisingly it was those working in the IT and HR sectors that are most worried about “burning out” over the Christmas period (51 percent and 61 percent, respectively).

    • Healthcare (34 percent) and retail (37 percent) employees are most concerned that there will not be the staff resources needed for the busier Christmas period.

    • The majority of retail employees don’t mind working extra hours over the festive period (51 percent), while only a quarter prefer not to work extra hours at this time of year (25 percent).

  • Christmas saviour – Continuing to foster employee engagement over the festive period is essential if productivity and customer service levels are to be maintained.

    • Increased remuneration is often considered the primary means to engage employees, but as the recent Workforce Engaged report by Kronos finds, pay ranks on ninth in order of importance. Feeling valued and being treated fairly rank much higher.

    • Communication with employees is crucial – Understanding the days and hours that staff would prefer to work over the festive period and creating work schedules that, where possible, take this into account and share the work across the team fairly will support greater levels of engagement and, ultimately, provide a higher level of customer service.

Author: Editorial Team

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