Life Style & Arts

To close or not to close?

How will your business handle Christmas this year? It wasn’t that long ago that the Christmas period in Australia spelled mass shutdowns across the country that lasted into the second week of January at the very least. Employees were often forced to take leave during the Christmas break, whether they wanted to take a holiday or not.

Nowadays though, for professional services businesses, in particular, you just can’t afford to shut your door and say ‘come back next year’ to your customers and potential new business. Of course, your website keeps your business up and running 24×7. But what kind of message are you sending to your customers if an email to your office results in an automated message telling you that your business is closed for two or three weeks?
For this reason, many professional services companies tend to work with a skeleton staff. At my firm, we sit down and discuss workloads to see who needs to work through and who could take advantage of some downtime by taking their holiday.

No working holiday

You see, it’s important not just to have the phones answered promptly, but also for individuals working over the break to be productive. Call me a Scrooge, but I’m not interested in supporting a Christmas working holiday whereby I’m paying my staff to surf the web and take extended lunch breaks. You need to weigh the cost of paying for staff and on-costs like air conditioning etc. against their predicted level of productivity.

Of course, you’ll always have employees who are desperate to take a well-earned break over Christmas, but there’ll be just as many who don’t want to. These employees will really appreciate not having to take their valuable leave at this time, preferring to take their breaks out of the peak holiday season.

Stockpiles of leave

That said, it’s also important to keep an eye on executives that are inadvertently stockpiling their annual leave. These guys have to be the primary candidates for enforced leave at any time of the year. It’s not only their health you have to worry about but also the dollar value of the leave, which, of course, increases year on year.

Whether you need your staff to work during the Christmas break largely depends on your business and your customer expectations. Whatever you decide to do, you are obliged to pay all employee entitlements to public holidays and eligible annual leave.

With fewer people in the office, the Christmas break is a great time to have maintenance and repairs undertaken, as well as perform any hardware/software upgrades.

Relaxed dress code

And while you are at work during the hot summer months, there are plenty of things you can instigate in the office to help make your be-suited execs feel a little more comfortable.

For starters, you can relax your dress code during this time and introduce more casual Fridays. Now this doesn’t mean it’s suddenly acceptable to turn up in thongs, shorts, and an old t-shirt, but establishing a business casual dress code will help your employees feel comfortable, yet still project professionalism while the mercury hits over 30 degrees Celsius.

Ashleigh Swayn is CEO of Countplus mbt, a leading chartered accountancy practice offering accounting, financial planning, and finance expertise.

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