Managing Skeleton Staff over Christmas

How do you Manage Skeleton Staff over Christmas? Everyone is going to want time off over Christmas which can you leave you with a headache of managing staff requests. You may look at how you can reduce down to “skelton” staff to accommodate these requests.

So how can you manage staff over Christmas?

Make Christmas Opening Plans Clear

It’s important that lines are drawn clearly in plenty of time to ensure all employees understand how the company is going to operate over the Christmas period. If everyone knows, confusion and anger becomes less likely.

Encourage Early Planning

Let staff know that late holiday requests are less likely to be accepted, but of course give them plenty of time. Look at what entitlement staff have remaining especially if December is the end of your holiday year and if you are enforcing a shutdown have staff got enough holiday to cover it?

Make The Most Of Technology

Technology can be extremely useful in ensuring managing Christmas leave. Whether it being using a database to manage leave request – Slice is a preferred partner of Breathe – or using technology to allow increased home working over the festive period.

Clear Reasoning

To avoid ill-feeling, it’s essential that any request refusals are clearly understood by employees. The worst thing to do is simply say ‘No’. Most people understand they might miss out, but showing due respect makes a big difference. So, always have a definite reason ready.

Once you have your skeleton staff how can you ensure you stay productive

The first port of call is identifying which tasks are essential for the skeleton crew, and from that, who is best placed to carry out these tasks.

The festive period could be a time to get caught up and wrapped up for the year so focus can shift to prioritise those items. If your customer contact goes quiet at this time of year take the opportunity to catch up!

Or if you remain busy but want to allow more time off you will need to use your skeleton staff wisely and prioritise the must do’s and leave the nice to do’s until you have a full remit of staff back.

Remember, working over the holidays is always a sacrifice – it’s time away from one’s personal life, and therefore requires a managerial sensitivity when dealing with those undertaking the responsibility.

Continue in this spirit of sensitivity throughout the silly season. Where possible create a casual environment and be lenient – encourage half days, late starts, even working from home. This approach will prove to keep morale high during the holidays themselves.


Managing staff can seem daunting – we don’t want that to be the case! We can support at all stages of the employee life cycle, with options to dip in when you need us or to engage with us on a longer term basis.

If you would like to discuss our services, please use the contact form on our website or email us on and our friendly team will be happy to share how we can support you.

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