'Tis the season for all good employees to become distracted. Stress. Gift shopping and giving. Sending holiday cards. Parties and holiday lunches. Decorating. Gift wrapping. Family obligations and gatherings. How can you keep your employees focused on their work-at-hand without them having visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads? Just what's an employer to do?

Set an example

Leadership is crucial to maintaining productivity during the holiday season. If your attitude and goals are lax during this time -- coming in excessively late and producing less than usual -- chances are your employees will take your lead and slack off as well. Stay focused on your end-of-year goals and chances are your employees will do the same.

Reinforce your mission statement

This might be a good time to remind employees of your company's fundamental purpose, and your short and long-term goals. Set some new goals, and let your inspired excitement and drive be contagious.

Don't be a "scrooge"

If you find yourself saying "Bah Humbug" to anything celebratory, think again. Perk up morale and productivity by giving your workers a holiday treat to look forward to or enjoy; i.e., a celebratory luncheon, festive decorations, or a holiday cookie or Secret Santa exchange. Consider giving each employee a company holiday gift, although this practice may be too costly for larger businesses. If this time of year is your busiest, keep employees' spirits high with small tokens of appreciation like bringing in bagels and coffee, or simply expressing your heartfelt thanks for a job well done.

If possible, try not to demand excessive overtime or weekend hours. When additional work time is necessary due to seasonal demands, consider using temporary help to augment your regular work force. If feasible, allow some flexibility in work-time shifts so employees can get those critical holiday errands accomplished. Contemplate scheduling company holiday celebrations and parties during normal business hours so you don't take away from workers' personal time.

Don't let history repeat itself

Did productivity suffer last holiday season? Identify what went wrong and come up with viable solutions, seeking input from workers whenever possible. If work time and employee relations suffered because certain employees took overly long lunch breaks, set down strict guidelines about lunch-time limits for all. If company orders were up last holiday season but you didn't have enough customer service help to keep up in a timely fashion, plan on employing more people or temporarily shifting work responsibilities in order to handle the load.

Reflect on and share accomplishments

Take the time to think about all the great things you, your business and employees have accomplished during the year. Focus on the positive contributions and achievements, and be sure to share these with your staff, being certain to thank each and all for whatever part they played. Being appreciated lifts the spirits and goes a long way to staying motivated during stressful and harried times.

Employing some or all of these methods should help maintain your employee productivity level during the holiday season. But do keep in mind that realistically you may experience some decrease in worker output. If this should happen, eat one of those holiday cookies, take a sip of some company eggnog, smile and exclaim, "Peace on Earth, Goodwill towards Men."