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The holidays are a hectic time for everybody, and project managers are no exception. In fact, managing a team during the holiday season can be especially challenging for a PM. After all, in addition to trying to juggle your own holiday preparations and job responsibilities, you also have to make sure that your team members are getting their jobs done in the midst of vacation time, sick days, travel plans, weather disruptions, holiday parties and a multitude of other distractions.

Managing your team during holidays

Even so, there’s no reason to let workplace chaos put a damper on your holiday spirit. Just use these simple strategies to make the holiday season a fun and productive time for you and your team.

Plan Ahead

The holiday season shouldn’t take any project manager by surprise- it lasts from late November to early January every single year! Every time you create a project plan, pay extra attention to the tasks and activities you put in the timeline around the holidays. Unless the project has unique requirements that necessitate heavy activity in the last six weeks of the year, it’s a good idea to keep the work during that time period fairly light. Even if you aren’t planning to take much time off yourself, it’s a good bet that most of your team members will be out of the office for at least a day or two at some point during the holidays.

Time off isn’t the only reason to keep the schedule light toward the end of the year. As every project manager knows, travel becomes increasingly difficult as the holidays approach. Between the extra traffic in airports and the increased likelihood of bad weather, it’s very easy for a business traveler to get stuck in an airport lounge when he or she is supposed to be in a client meeting. If members of your team plan on traveling for business during the holiday season, keep this tip in mind.

Be Flexible

It’s natural for even the most devoted employees to get distracted during the holidays. You can help your team members stay focused on their work by giving them extra options as to how and where they get their work done. Whenever possible, try to schedule conference calls or video conferences instead of face-to-face meetings, and try to accommodate employees who want to work remotely in the days or weeks before and after the major holidays. Effective team management is about putting your employees in a position to succeed, and this is a good time to flex the rules a bit.

The holiday season is also a great time to remind your team of the benefits of online collaboration. Point out to your team members that they can use your organization’s online collaboration tools to stay up to date on project developments even when their colleagues are away from the office.

Participate in the Fun

Rather than cracking the whip and trying to squeeze as much work out of your team as possible, join in the festivities and show your team that you’re all in it together. Whether you throw a holiday party, organize a social outing or simply send a cheerful holiday greeting, you can build team morale and get your employees energized for the year ahead.

Angela Bunner
Angela has 17 years of experience in the project portfolio management space, mostly with Oracle, as well as with NetSuite, before joining Clarizen where she is a Director of Product Strategy and Sales Engineering. Angela has extensive industry experience in engineering & construction, professional services, aerospace & defense, public sector, as well as working with embedded service organizations such as IT and marketing PMOs.