HR 13 December 2018

3 business lessons from Santa Clause – the original gig worker

Santa business
Investing in the people around you means a merrier Christmas for everyone

The benefits of flexible working, reduced hours and better working conditions remain hot topics of discussion in business, but have you ever stopped to consider the working conditions faced by the original mobile worker?

Mobile working is frequently mooted as a better method for work/life balance, but for one elderly seasonal worker, the demands put on him over the Christmas period are just too much, leading to this old man drinking excessively and comfort eating, under the stress of unrealistic working demands.

This is as well as supporting a wife, several pets and running a busy manufacturing and distribution start-up, with a workforce comprised mostly of workers more used to fur-trapping and sheep-herding than the demands of modern commerce.

This man, one S.Claus of Lapland, is well aware of the challenges modern business brings, wearing many hats as a worker (although one very specific one around Christmas) and understanding the challenges of the modern world; even though he has been working longer than most people. He is:

  • A gig-worker who, despite being on a zero-hour contract, is expected to work longer hours than most people, followed by long periods with no income.
  • An entrepreneur who despite running a large manufacturing business successfully for many years is facing stiff competition from manufacturers of cheaper mass-produced plastic goods over traditional handmade goods.
  • An elderly worker unable to retire due to the increased cost in living (especially high in Scandinavia), not to mention the lack of a good pension.
  • Someone with many business expenses to consider, like providing his own transport and maintaining stock-levels for work; as well as keeping livestock as a business concern.
  • As an employed worker, he would be eligible for holiday overtime pay and fuel allowance, but that would mean losing control of his business and decreasing the quality and integrity of his brand.

As a result of his almost impossible workload, it’s not surprising that Santa (as he prefers to be known) struggles with work-related stress and sometimes over-indulges. Yet he feels compelled to work long periods of overtime, in two separate jobs, mostly due to worries over his reputation and struggling to make ends meet, especially given that he allows many shipments to be delivered for free; without the benefits that registered charity status would give him.

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Like many people with overwhelming work demands, Santa appears fine on the surface. But beyond the beard, all is not as rosy as Rudolph’s nose.

Santa’s story is clearly a satirical one but within it lies a few important business lessons.

At Christmas, you might have noticed some of your staff go A.W.O.L. Some, although present, will almost certainly be germ-ridden and would be better off tucked up in bed while the ones in good health will probably be stressed-out by the demands of Christmas or a heavy workload which must be completed by the end of the year.

Investing in the people around you means a merrier Christmas for everyone as avoiding burn-out or frustration means less missed days and more is achieved on the days everyone is in the office.

Here are some tips on how you can help your workforce this Christmas, and ensure Santa keeps you on his “nice list”.

Make sure everyone gets sufficient support with their workload

It doesn’t matter how good your team is, if things aren’t organised efficiently, they’ll be overworked and face burn-out. Our recent survey with Censuswide showed 70% of managers in the retail and hospitality industry struggle with unexpected absences in the seasonal period; don’t be one of them – create a weekly plan that suits everyone and stick to it.

Make sure your team has the right tools for the job

If your people don’t have the tools to organise themselves, arrange meetings and plan ahead, problems are likely to arise. Many businesses have challenging deadlines to meet by year-end, so if you want to avoid problems you need to find the best systems to create your planning strategy.

Add on regular meetings to check in with your people

Arrange regular informal meetings to support employees as they come up against unpredictable challenges. This means your staff stay engaged and problems are identified before they spin out of control.

Elliot Glynn is a marketing specialist at MHR, a provider of HR and payroll software and services

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