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How to Manage End-of-Year Schedules in Your Office

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- As the end of the year approaches, employees nationwide are finalizing their requests for holiday time off. Although for many industries November and December are considered the "slow season," many small businesses are still running at full speed through the New Year, making it difficult to give workers the family time they deserve.

Thankfully, remote technologies and creative scheduling have made it easier than ever to keep your company going strong throughout the holiday season. Take a look at the best ways to manage your employees' holiday schedules and improve end-of-year workflow.

Encourage working from home

"You can't ignore the holidays -- you have to embrace them," says Steven Raz, co-founder and managing partner at executive search firm Cornerstone Search Group. "Time off and work/life balance is a big deal, especially during the holidays."

Companies that haven't already investigated work-from-home options would be wise to do so this holiday season, then carry that benefit through into next year if it's effective, Raz says. Some of the best work-from-home tools to keep your office connected include instant messaging, Skype and a frequent back-and-forth of emails and phone calls, he suggests.

In the past five years, but especially in the past year, small businesses have been gravitating more toward the cloud, says Shelley Ng, a small business specialist at benefits provider Ceridian.

"Today we call it the cloud, but we used to call them Web-based solutions," Ng says. "We're seeing an increasing level of adoption there, with small businesses doing everything from payroll to scheduling staff and tracking their time, and people can collaborate who aren't in the same office -- no one has to be in a specific location."

Most employees can accomplish at least 75% of what they would do in the office while working from home, says Mike Pugh, small-business expert at workplace technology company j2 Global. Today, many companies are using Dropbox to store important documents remotely and GoToMeeting to share computer screens and collaborate online.

"Every business is different, but now is a great time for companies to realize that they don't need to have their account manager drive an hour and a half to work each way, because he's actually more productive from home than he was from the office."