It’s nearly time to relax! But first…make sure you – and your business – are ready for next year
Here at EOH Human Capital Solutions, it has been a busy year. We are all looking forward to a break. Hopefully, your business successfully ended 2017 with satisfied customers and a healthy balance sheet, and you’re planning to enjoy a well-deserved holiday. The schools have broken up, and the family is excited about the festive season plans, whether that’s a trip to the coast or a few weeks chilling at home. But before you close the laptop for the last time this year, take a few moments to consider your business preparations for the festive season and the year ahead.
If your business is about to close for the year with Saturday’s public holiday (16 December), or if you will be closed or on reduced hours between Christmas and New Year, communicate your holiday schedule to your suppliers and customers, particularly if you do business internationally. Not all countries shut up shop like we do at the end of the year. Many northern hemisphere countries take a shorter break in December and a main annual holiday in their summer – June, July and August. Some South African companies, likewise, do not close completely but simply provide a more limited service for a few weeks. Post your opening hours on your website, on the home page and on any other pages visitors might land on directly.
Ensure your employees set up out-of-office email replies and automated voice systems are primed with the appropriate information for callers, if there will be any days when phones won’t be answered. You could create a universal out-of-office message for all employees to use, to project a unified corporate image, personalised by each employee with relevant information such as leave dates and an alternative contact.
Advise key customers personally of your opening hours and emergency contacts when you are closed. Agree on a schedule with your customer service teams to make sure there is always someone who can provide assistance if necessary.
Thank your customers
The year-end is an opportunity to thank your loyal customers for their business throughout the year. Send festive greetings by email and include a thank you message. Your most important customers should be acknowledged personally. A hand-delivered gift basket, such as fruit or seasonal items, will make your customer feel esteemed. If you have a direct relationship with one individual in a client company, then you may want to give them a personal gift (as long as it is appropriate and not too extravagant); but if your contact is with a client team, send a gift that can be shared, such as chocolates or biscuits.
And while you’re at it, thank your employees. Undoubtedly your company hosts a year-end function, which is the traditional way to thank the staff for a year of hard work, but you will be held in high regard if you take the time to say thank you to individuals or to teams. Everyone likes to feel valued. Thank colleagues for their contribution to business success; and acknowledge any who have particularly helped you this year, perhaps by offering good advice at a difficult time or putting in extra hours to take pressure off you.
Whatever your formal business planning cycle, the end of the calendar year is always a good time to organise projects and activities due to be executed in the new year. If you’re in a business that slows down in December, use the spare time to engage employees and invite their input into business process improvements or new project ideas. And what about your own forward planning? Consider what you want to achieve in the coming year, not just for the business but for yourself, in your career and in your personal life. If you haven’t already done so, set your goals for 2018, then write them down. There is evidence to show that written goals are more likely to be achieved.
Tie up loose ends
Before the December slowdown grinds to a complete halt, take a moment to do some housekeeping that will help you begin 2018 on the right foot. If you take these simple steps you may find the new year gets off to a much more productive start.
Finish outstanding projects if possible
There’s nothing worse than having your holiday disrupted by thoughts of tasks left undone at the office, or worse…having to spend a few hours each day staring at a computer screen. Try to complete minor activities and reach significant milestones on longer-term projects. Then you won’t be tempted to open the laptop while you’re on leave.
Reflect on your accomplishments
We’re all used to performance reviews and know the importance of cataloguing and articulating our achievements, but it’s also nice to reflect privately on the year’s accomplishments, without the pressure of the appraisal environment. Our professional lives are only a portion of our total selves, so reward yourself for personal achievements as well as career-related successes. Perhaps you improved your relationship with a difficult colleague or family member. Maybe you achieved a personal ambition such as running the Comrades or lowering your golf handicap. Going over your successes – and the targets you didn’t quite hit – will help you set your goals for the year ahead.
More people say they are overwhelmed by emails than any other business activity. Google “How to manage your inbox” and you will get 1.66 million results. So here’s our advice: In those last days before you finish for the year, clear your inbox. Go through old emails and delete the ones you thought you needed but never looked at again. Create folders for the important emails you need to keep, but make your system simple, obvious and easy to navigate. Too many folders defeats the purpose. Once your files are set up, when an email comes in, you can follow the “read it, file it or delete it” rule. This will keep your inbox clutter-free and you won’t be overwhelmed with a constant backlog of emails to read and action.
Ready, set, relax!
With a tidy physical workspace and an uncluttered mental space, you can go enjoy yourself. Relaxation and recuperation are essential for good mental and physical health; not only do you “recharge the battery” mentally, you also allow your body to recover at a cellular level. Stress and fatigue take their toll on our physiology, and rest is vital to the body’s ability to heal itself. Without quality recovery time, the tension in the back from too much sitting becomes back pain from muscle spasm; occasional indigestion becomes chronic, etc. If you start the year tired, it will be hard to find the energy to achieve the targets and goals you’ve set yourself, and you risk fatigue turning into illness. Don’t be tempted to check emails while you’re on leave. Your family deserves your time and attention, and you need time for yourself. Think of it as an investment in your productivity in 2018.
EOH Human Capital Solutions wishes all our clients, suppliers and employees a safe and happy festive season.