At work during this time of year, millions of minds focus on a daunting task. No, not the job — shopping. You're thinking about what...

Share story

At work during this time of year, millions of minds focus on a daunting task. No, not the job — shopping.

You’re thinking about what to get the special people in your life and how you can afford it. Every holiday season the same problem crops up, making concentrating on your job harder.

Besides a lack of focus, businesses also have a problem with absences, whether through vacations or sick days, said Charlotte Anderson, president of Amethyst and Iris, a New Jersey firm that helps companies diagnose performance-and-productivity problems.

“Employees just emotionally check out,” she said, similar to what happens on Fridays in summer.

Obviously, if everybody does not give 100 percent the business will be in trouble, as well as your employment prospects. You have to remember there are lots of people counting on you and they don’t care about whether you’re able to purchase a PlayStation 3.

Companies, though, aren’t helpless in this situation.

The owner of Mike’s Clearance Center, a furniture and bedding store in Delmar, Del., said he and his four employees share a close bond.

“Some businesses don’t consider that end of it — the personal aspect,” said owner Mike Bradley.

Employees probably spend more time with co-workers than with family, he said. Respect and trust help make healthy work relationships.

While professional responsibility is important, Bradley knows family takes precedence over work and said his flexibility with scheduling allows his staff to do what they need to do at home, while making sure business doesn’t suffer.

“You have to respect that your fellow employees have lives,” he said.

Being flexible is critical around the holidays, Anderson said. Allowing people to work their shifts a little differently decreases the chance they’ll take a sick day and increases the likelihood all of the work gets done, he said.

Many companies have problems with vacations during this time of year because many maintain the policy: If workers don’t use their allotted days, they’ll lose them. One way to fight that is by offering incentives to employees, Anderson said. Employers can even show flexibility on a “use it or lose it” situation.

Scott Fitzgerald of Fitzgerald’s Auto Salvage in Lincoln, Del., said a company’s culture is important in how employees conduct themselves, i.e., they take their cues from management. How a boss acts in a small business is especially important.

“The employees in a small business are a lot closer to a manager or boss because of the small-business atmosphere,” he said.

While managers’ actions influence their workers, it’s the employees who have to perform day in and day out. Bosses aren’t stupid, and if they find you mentally unavailable too often, you could soon find yourself available for new work.