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How to Work Painlessly During Holidays

3 ways to keep your team upbeat even when they have to clock in

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BY Marishka M. Cabrera - 12 Aug 2016

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It’s safe to say nobody likes to work during holidays. Startups, however, have redefined the way people do business. Running a start-up company may mean operating on holidays or servicing clients abroad where observances may vary.

So how can Southeast Asian startups remain productive while keeping their employees upbeat even during holidays? Here are three suggestions:

1. Give your team days off to compensate for the holidays when they do need to work

Business for Malaysia’s CatchThatBus, an online booking platform for bus tickets on routes across Malaysia and Singapore, is most critical during holiday periods.

“As such, key functions like customer service and operations still function during these times,” co-founder and chief operating officer Ashwin Jeyapalasingam says.

Jeyapalasingam says that to “soften the blow,” employees from Malaysia and Singapore who are asked to work on holidays are given days off in place of the holidays they missed. At CatchThatBus, this is communicated upfront during their interviews and stated in their employment contracts.

Business process outsourcing (BPO) workers know this set-up all too well. They rarely observe local holidays so they could keep pace with their clients abroad. Former team leader Daniele Castaneda, who managed 27 employees during his stint at a multinational technology and consulting firm with a back office in Manila, prefers to look at the bright side. “Sometimes, it is more enjoyable as there is no traffic going to work,” he says.

2. Show up, yourself

Jeyapalasingam says that they sometimes take for granted the fact that their employees go to the office at times when others our out enjoying the break. What they do is show solidarity with them by being present, themselves.

“Often, either or both founders will also be working during those times, so hopefully the team doesn't quite feel so abandoned,” he says.

3. Allow your team to work from home

At Philippine-based online job-matching platform Kalibrr, employees are allowed to trade holidays so they can take the day off in the future, especially if the holiday falls in the middle of the week.

Another option is to work from home.

Co-founder and CEO Paul Rivera says, “Our customers may not observe a holiday and some of us will have to work, and the best way to do that is to allow people to work from home during holidays. We're really a results-based company and if you can produce results from home on your couch, I don't think it really matters to me or my customers.”

He adds, “I think to be able to engage talent employees today, you've got to be a flexible organization, that is constantly adapting to your customer's needs and in turn, hiring a team that can work in these conditions.”

When both workers and startup workers understand the unique demands – and rewards – of the dynamic start-up scene, they would not begrudge the days they have to work, even when everybody else is taking a break.

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