The Christmas office closure can serve as a distraction to most workplaces. Staff are pre-occupied with planning Christmas-related events, buying gifts, and holidays away. And then there’s the annual staff Christmas party that often brings office productivity to a halt. One of the questions many company managers and owners grapple with is whether to remain operational over the Christmas/New Year holiday period.

Some offices and businesses need to stay open, as Christmas can be the busiest time of year for many. However for companies that find phone calls and emails slow down to a trickle over the Christmas period, the decision on whether to stay open or not can be difficult.

Managers and business owners need to consider the needs of employees against the company’s business requirements.

The financial costs
What are the immediate costs of running an office over the Christmas break? Many offices will receive very few phone calls or emails over the Christmas break and keeping an office open requires electricity to power lights, computers, and air conditioning. Is there enough benefit derived by being present in the office to offset these costs? Could staff working over this period work on call from their homes?

Staff wellbeing
Forced closures mean that employees who are reluctant to take leave in general are given a break. Stress management is a significant problem in Australian workplaces with Safe Work Australia estimating the annual cost of workplace stress to the Australian economy to be $10 billion.

A further $25 billion is associated with the cost of ‘presenteeism’ in the workplace. Presenteeism is the loss of productivity that occurs when a stress or illness afflicted employee does not function to their full ability while on the job. Six working days worth of productivity is thought to be lost every year per employee, according to Medicare 24/7 Health Advice Line research.

A forced closure may not be a cure-all to the problem of stress within the workplace, but it can be used to alleviate some of the pressure.

Staff engagement and morale
Taking a break at this time of year provides a reset button to begin fresh in the new-year. It gives staff an opportunity to recharge and return to the workplace with fresh eyes and a rejuvenated attitude.

For many employees this time is one of reflection and ‘New Year’s resolutions’ and taking a break from the daily grind of work can help to provide a sense of perspective and self-evaluation. It may help staff to set goals for the year ahead, give them clarity on their commitment to the business and improve their productivity.

In addition, how might keeping the office open during a slow period for the business impact upon morale? For many, being forced to sit in the office with little to do but maintain a physical presence can be seen as a waste of their time. A week of browsing the Internet does little for staff engagement!

The flip side is that not every staff member wants the time off over the Christmas break. And not every business would benefit from closing the office.

Often forced leave is taken out of employee’s annual leave entitlements with many staff preferring to use their leave at a time of their own choosing.

Christmas is a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, to take some time off work and reenergise for the new-year ahead. Making a decision on whether to close your office is a balance between what is appropriate for your business while considering the sensitivities of your staff and clients.