Got more time at the end of a workday than you know what to do with? Not likely.

How about finding extra time during the holidays to stop and enjoy the season as a team, let alone finding extra time to be available for fun and family time? Not likely.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

How do I know? I was once a stressed-out contractor just like you. I fell into the hole of being steamrolled by the holidays every year. And it was doubly bad when it was a crazy-cold winter, and we were maxed out covering heating calls and attending to frozen plumbing pipes.

What changed for me and my team? We learned to work together and find time for one another by making it a priority while still looking out for our customers.

I’m here to tell you that it’s possible if you’re willing to let go of what has been and embrace what can be.

Here’s what we did as a team:

1. We planned ahead. We made sure we had a fully rotating schedule in place for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s by Sept. 30 so there were no surprises on who was working when. We also made note of who worked which holiday so that we could do our best to make sure they could rotate to another holiday the next year or even only on standby.

2. We agreed to have a standby crew in waiting because they were paid a standby fee to do just that. It was important to them to know when they’d have to standby, and it was important to those working a specific holiday to know that their teammates were in the wings to help if and when the call crush happened. Everyone thought it was fair. What they liked even more is that they could enjoy some family time with the understanding that they’d have to be at work within the hour if they were called in to help.

3. We agreed that we all must sacrifice something to get something. So, if you worked Thanksgiving, you got to pick whether you wanted to cover either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day as well as either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day.

While it would be a nice fantasy to think you can enjoy all the holidays in full, it’s more realistic to set a goal of getting to enjoy at least some of the holidays every year.

4. We agreed that all of this didn’t apply to just techs being called into action. It was a call for owners, managers, and inside staff to be there on a rotational basis to lend support not only to customers but to one another as well. As owners/managers, my brothers and I ran service calls and answered the phones on holidays, too. It was important for the staff to know that we didn’t just expect them to sacrifice while we took time off — all of us would sacrifice a little to help a lot.

5. We made spending time together both formal and informal. That meant we had our holiday party a week before Christmas on Wednesday, which every contractor knows is the slowest time of the week. We rotated in and out of the office, and everyone ate together and shared the feeling of being a welcomed part of this extended family.

When we knew someone was stuck on a call, one of us would make time to swing by — not just to lend a hand, but to deliver a cup of coffee and a donut. It was a great time to catch up on each other’s holiday plans, but the key thing is it was great to not feel abandoned out there, especially during the holidays.

6. Our whole team took on the attitude of service. We chose to serve our customers by giving them heat when there was none or a toilet that actually flushed before guests were due to arrive. It was the true spirit of holiday giving for contractors and their companies.

7. We trained hard before the holidays hit. We did this so we’d be fully productive on the calls we ran, and we worked hard to make people feel good.

In busy times, you need your systems to run as smoothly as possible. The knee-jerk reaction is to run around with your head chopped off, but that won’t help. I know: I tried it, once upon a time. Systems allow you to stay calm and focused, and that makes you more productive and saves time.

We can’t create more time; what we have is what we get. It’s up to us to use that time effectively. Having manuals and systems at your company will make the crazy-busy times less crazy. That’s because you’ll know how to maximize your calls while keeping stress to a minimum.

Do this and feel the time stressors abate so you can enjoy your time at work and have time to be with loved ones during the holiday season.

Publication date: 11/19/2018

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