Five tips to handle working over Christmas and the New Year

Lydia Smith
Writer, Yahoo Finance UK
Photo: Getty Images

The festive season is upon us and for many it means a few days off work to eat, drink and be merry. Instead of checking emails and sitting in meetings, the holiday period is an excuse to sit yourself on the sofa all day - only moving to reach for mince pies or a prosecco top-up. 

Not everyone is so lucky, however. Millions of people are likely to be in work on Christmas and Boxing Day, with as many as one in 17 employees working during the festive season. 

According to a survey of 1,382 UK workers expecting to work on Christmas Day, people will clock an average of seven hours, but nearly one in five (18%) are due to work for more than nine hours. 

Those most likely to be working this Christmas are employed in the healthcare industry, with 19% of those in the sector expecting to work on 25 December. HR came in at the third-highest sector expected to be working on Christmas Day at 9%, just after arts and culture at 11%. 

So if you’re working over the festive period, what can you do to make it a little easier?

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Take advantage of flexible working hours 

One of the key advantages of working over Christmas and the New Year is the access to flexible working hours. According to research by Benenden Health, more than two-fifths of employees (44%) have access to support and flexible working at Christmas to help cope with the pressure of the festive season. This is more than reasonable for your employer to be receptive to flexible working requests, considering you are sacrificing time with your family so that you can work. 

Get involved in the fun

Just because you’re working over the holidays doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the festivities. Whether it's a lunch, a party or Secret Santa, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t get involved in the fun - even if you aren’t feeling particularly festive. 

If your workplace hasn’t organised anything, get together a few colleagues and go for drinks or dinner when you finish work. The gesture will no doubt be appreciated by others too.

Celebrate off-peak

Christmas might be a time for cheer, but it is certainly chaotic. Restaurants and bars are crowded, shops are crammed with frenzied customers and travel is expensive. Instead of having to elbow your way past the crowds, take advantage of your off-peak time off to celebrate when it is less busy.

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When everyone is back at work in January, you could be enjoying a well-deserved break, particularly if you make use of the sales offered by airlines and travel companies. 

Stay off social media 

Many of us find ourselves scrolling through Instagram, Facebook or Twitter in our downtime or when it’s quiet at work. 

Three billion people, around 40% of the world’s population, use online social media – and on average, we’re spending two hours every day sharing, liking and tweeting on these platforms. 

It can be a difficult habit to break, but staying off social media - even just for Christmas Day - can make the pain of having to work while everyone else is off a little easier. After all, there’s nothing worse than going through paperwork and replying to emails, while seeing others post photos of their Christmas lunches and presents. 

Prepare emotionally 

It might be quiet in the office, you might be being paid twice your normal rate and you may even have an upcoming holiday booked in January. Even so, it can still be emotionally hard to be away from your family and friends over Christmas - particularly if you are used to celebrating with them. For some, working over the festive period can mean missing out on their children opening presents. 

Preparing for this can help, such as organising a belated Christmas lunch with your relatives when you finally have time off. If you have time during your working day, a short phone-call every so often can help make you feel included. If you’re working away, try Facetime or Skype.