Between Thanksgiving and the New Year, the glacial-like work pace in some offices may cause employees to slack off. On the other hand, they may use the period to catch up on work that has long been on the backburner. According to a 2012 survey of 3,000 U.S. workers by Regus, an office space company, 58 of percent of business employees think staff will use the time over the holidays to catch up on unfinished tasks.
But your productivity doesn't have to taper off or be strictly relegated to overdue work. Rather, finding new projects that "require creative and deep thinking are perfect for this time of year," says Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of "Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant."
By tapping into your holiday cheer, here are some ways you can become a more productive, thoughtful employee before the year closes.
Get close to your boss. Swamped with work, your boss may have passed on requests for one-on-one meetings during the year. But with both of your schedules opening up, you may finally have a chance to capture his or her attention. "Your availability during the holiday season can really be a rare opportunity to brainstorm [with your boss] about new initiatives or even gain traction on your existing ones," Taylor says.
[See: 10 Things Only Bad Bosses Say.]
Establish ties with a mentor. If you can't get close to your boss, try to forge a bond with a seasoned co-worker whose work you've always admired. Since each of you have some spare time, book that coveted meeting to find out what you're doing right and what you can do better. "Get some feedback as to how they see your performance, and gain some ideas from somebody who you respect and get their take on what you might focus on in the next year," says Anna Ranieri, career counselor and co-author of "How Can I Help?"
Spread knowledge. If you're an avid reader of material surrounding current and future trends in your industry, pass along important links to your boss, colleagues and clients. According to Taylor, sharing substantive information "shows that you have leadership qualities because you can mentor others on what's happening." Moreover, your boss, preoccupied with meetings or frequent travel, will appreciate you sending articles he or she would never have time to dig up.
Carefully consider additional time off. With family coming from out of town or your kids having a swarm of school holiday activities during work hours, the opportunity to take days off will be inviting. But your employer should provide you with a fair amount of time off. According to a Bloomberg BNA survey from last year, 58 percent of 628 employers scheduled at least three paid days off for the 2012-2013 holiday season, up from 42 percent in 2011-2012 and 36 percent in 2010-2011. Before requesting additional time off, it's a good idea to consider staff needs and current projects.
Cover for a colleague. Inundated with personal activities, a co-worker may need some additional time off. If you're lacking personal obligations and don't mind putting in some extra hours, volunteer your services. "That's a great way to sort of build teamwork with people and gain further standing in the group by offering to do something for somebody who can't be there," Ranieri says.
Be flexible on your raise. Having put in some excellent work over the course of the year, you may be set on asking for a raise. But if the company you work for is in a financial slump and your personal finances are in good shape, you may want to hold off. Raise the issue with your boss and try to pinpoint when it will be financially feasible for the company to increase salaries. "Sometimes people have to moderate their own desires for the good of the team," Ranieri says.
Invite everyone to a holiday event. As the organizer of a potluck or a lunch out with co-workers, you may be tempted to exclude one or two colleagues you don't like. Instead, take the high road and invite everyone, and don't rule out the possibility of stirring up a conversation that mends fences. "By being inclusive, you might even start a new leaf with someone you've had conflict with throughout the year," Taylor says. "You can even use this as an opportunity to reach out to people who have been difficult to work with."