Have you completed your firm’s planning for the Christmas New Year period?
By now most firms have this all arranged and indeed apply a regular policy not to work over the Christmas period.
Most firms close their office between Christmas and New Year, and if Christmas falls in the early part of a week, often the offices are closed from the Friday lunch time of the preceding week. Offices then usually open either immediately after the New Year’s holiday, or the first Monday in January.
Some firms extend re-opening until the middle of January or, based on some of the email messages I am now receiving, the Principals of the firm defer returning to work until the 3rd week in January.
Generally all Staff are told to take the period between Christmas and New Year as annual leave. I do recall one fellow employee, many years ago, complaining because he was saving leave in order to go overseas and he was also busy saving his cash. He did not really want to take leave at that stage, but he had no choice.
It does also leave the question of what happens for people from a non-Christian religious faith? Presumably arrangements are made for them to take their particular religious holidays as leave, but should they then be forced to take annual leave between Christmas and New Year? It is quite possible they may prefer to take a week’s annual leave around the time of their particular religious holiday.
The afternoon of the last Friday before Christmas is generally taken as a holiday and many firms arrange a special Christmas lunch and afternoon activity for Principals and Staff. This is in addition to the June 30 function which firms also hold.
The difficulty with forcing people to come to a long Christmas lunch on the last Friday, is many Staff would prefer to be able to go and complete Christmas shopping, or take off early for a holiday. That is not really an option because they are being paid for the afternoon and they are expected to attend the lunch. I have never forgotten the office manager who referred to these activities as “forced fun”.
Remember to set email messages in order people know you are on leave and when you will be returning. Recently I was trying to contact a person and received no response to emails nor to a telephone call. I subsequently found out from a fellow employee that the particular person was away overseas, on leave. Unfortunately, when I had emailed, there was no immediate bounce back explaining the person was on leave.
One issue for your firm is whether or not to require all employees to set “out of office” for their email addresses when on leave.
If you have people working overseas in an outsourcing centre, will they be working, or will they be forced to take holidays? If may be difficult for them to get work checked and queries answered, if your office is closed.
During the Christmas Break
Having to work between Christmas and New Year can be a major irritation. Last year I recall one practitioner explaining for the first time ever he was having to work on an urgent client matter between Christmas and New Year. I referred him to some comments I heard from a sole practitioner of a large firm, based in Houston USA. The American had explained he told clients he always wanted to be available for them. Indeed, if they had a crisis he wanted them to call him, but the rule was, if he had to work for them outside of normal business hours, his charge rate would double.
He said over the years he had had various calls from clients regarding urgent issues. He was generally able to quickly chat with them on the telephone, resolve the issue in part and they were happy to wait until business hours for him to go and see them. There had been a few cases over the years were the client indicated they really needed help now. In these cases the practitioner reminded them of the double hourly rate, but the client said they wanted to proceed. I like the idea of being available for a client in a genuine emergency, but at the same time making sure any weekend or annual leave is not abused.
After the New Year Holiday Period.
It can be difficult getting back into work mode after a holiday. I recall a person who had taken 13 weeks long service leave, she explained it was too long and she had real trouble adjusting when she returned to work. In part she resolved this by changing jobs!
For your firm, Staff may take a few days to settle back into a routine and if Staff are returning to work over a staggered period, the office may be disrupted for a week or so.
Best wishes to all for a wonderful Christmas holiday. I hope for all, a most successful 2014.
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