here are the best things about holidays in the workplace

If you’re grumpy about having to work during the holidays when you’d rather be at home by the fireplace and Christmas tree, don’t despair! There are plenty of things to enjoy about being at work around the holidays.

No, really. Here are seven of them.

1. Working when everyone else is gone. Some people consider this a negative, but working when not many others are around has loads of advantages: Your office will be quiet and you can work without interruption – something that might not happen at any other time of year. It’s also a great time to clean your desk, organize files, purge old documents, and catch up on projects that you’ve been putting off for lack of time.

2. You can relax – a bit. If your workload slows way down at this time of year but you have a job that requires you to be physically present anyway, in many offices you can have more relaxed days than normally: Play some music, make some cocoa, and simply enjoy the quiet day. (This obviously isn’t true for jobs where the workload doesn’t slow down, but it’s true for many!)

3. Fewer phone calls. It’s not just your coworkers who are away; vendors, clients, and others outside your office who you normally work with are generally away in large numbers too. Some of their companies may even shut down entirely during the last week of the year. This makes it much less likely that you’ll be interrupted by outside questions or a client’s last-minute rush project.

4. The constant stream of holiday food. Most office workers can count on a bonanza of cookies, pastries, cheese balls, and other holiday snacks, whether they’re brought in by coworkers, supplied by the company itself, or sent over by vendors and clients. (Of course, this also belongs on the list of the 10 worst things about holidays in the office, if you’re trying to watch what you eat.) Speaking of which…

5. Potlucks. This is another item on the list that some people love and some people hate, but taken in the right spirit, potlucks can be enormously fun. You get to try dishes that you might never have tried before, particularly if you work with coworkers from diverse cultural backgrounds. And you can see what sorts of things your coworkers like to cook – and you might be surprised to learn that Joe from Accounting makes amazing biscotti or that Paula from Communications has a recipe for rum balls that you’ll spend the rest of your tenure at your company trying to wrangle out of her.

6. Holiday bonuses. At many companies, the end of the year is bonus time, meaning that you can expect some extra holiday cash – in some cases, a lot of extra holiday cash. Bonuses are more common in some fields than in others, but even if they’re routine in your industry and at your company, remember not to take them for granted – they’re extra money that can vary from year to year. (Unless you have a contract that requires a bonus, in which case it’s not really a bonus at all – it’s more accurately part of your normal compensation that comes late in the year.)

7. Paid holidays (if you’re lucky enough to have them). No matter what else you might think of your employer, it’s nice to have paid days off. And if you’re fortunate enough to work at one of the many companies that close down between Christmas and New Year’s and pay employees for that time, you have a full extra week of paid vacation to enjoy.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 50 comments… read them below }

    1. Bea W*

      Similar to ruling the place, I once was one of a handful of people to come into the office during a snowy day, and the only person in my section. Well, someone had planned something, and there were two big tables of cupcakes set up inside the lobby and hardly anyone there to eat them. MINE, ALL MINE!!!

  1. tcookson*

    I’m working some and relaxing some (by looking at Facebook and AAM); there’s a box of chocolates left by my coworkers; most other people are out of the office; and, best of all, I was able to park close to my building!

  2. Me*

    You left off what I consider the biggest perk: an amazing commute! With so few people working this week, my commute time is half what it normally is! Blissful!

    1. Bea W*

      Was my hands down favorite part of working holiday weeks. Now I take public transit so it doesn’t shorten my commute time any.

      1. Chinook*

        Actually, working during the holidays does shorten my transit commute on a bus and allows me to have no one sitting next to me, so I can stretch out!

        1. Bea W*

          Bus riders really benefit from the light traffic and lower ridership. Your bus may even be *on time* this week! I’m on trains. It’s less crowded, but the same issues (equipment failure) that cause delays and other havoc still happen on a daily basis.

          The one exception may be the Green Line – B. Those people are probably praising the gods this time of year.

    2. TychaBrahe*

      When I lived in Southern California, the Metrolink ticket for December was like 60% of regular fare, but our company’s AQMD reimbursement for using public transportation was the same. It was like a $75 present.

    3. Katie the Fed*

      Yup! It took me 11 minutes to get to work today. ELEVEN MINUTES! In the DC area. Usually it’s 20-30.

      And parking was even better!

  3. Mike C.*


    1. Traction control off.
    2. Turn hard while applying a small amount of gas.
    3. Explore the limits of mechanical grip in your RWD car. :D

    1. Emma*

      But never in a company car, right? ;-)

      Oversteer and understeer: the difference between your butt or your face hitting the wall! (sorry, I had to.) Hope it’s neither, Mike C.!

    2. Chinook*

      Mike C. I wish more people think like you. I live in a city where approx. 40% of the population is from another country. That means approx. 40% of the population didn’t have a parent make them try and in out their car the first major snowfall after they got their driver’s license and it shows in the amount of tailgating and speeding you see after a storm.

      1. Mints*

        Haha, but being American.didn’t guarantee l living in snow. Or wait, are you Canadian? Are there part of Canada that don’t have snow in the winter?
        –From a Californian who has never driven in snow

        1. Zelos*

          I’m from Vancouver in Canada and we don’t get much snow here; it’s mostly rain. Of course, this means that on the rare occasions when we do get snow, the city goes into an all-out panic over a few inches’ worth. :P Toronto and the prairies must be laughing at us every winter…

          1. Another Emily*

            I used to live in Vancouver. It snows every winter, it just doesn’t last for very long. Yet… people act like they’ve never seen snow in their lives before in that one week where there’s snow on the roads.

            1. Anonymous*

              I think its like that everywhere? I’m in Northern Ontario and the first day it snows theres like 100 fatal car crashes because people are dumb.

          2. Chinook*

            We would stop laughing at Vancouverites’ reactions to snow only if they promise to stop showing pictures of tulips in bloom in March. Since that isn’t going to happen, all bets are off.

      2. Bea W*

        The first winter after I got my license still holds the record for the snowiest winter. Had a herniated disk from the shoveling before that was all over, but I sure knew how to drive in it.

        Worst winter driving experience I had was in a minor storm that coated Richmond in about 4 inches. This would have been nothing back home. Instead it was 3 extra hours of white knuckling it down I-95 hoping none of those idiots, especially the tractor-trailers didn’t spin out and knock me off the road. Even before there was any snow on the ground, I was seeing ridiculous numbers of cars spun off the side of the road. I was fine driving my own car, even without plowing. I had front wheel drive, good tires, and was used to driving in worse conditions and knew slow and steady would win the race. It was all the other people on the road that scared the crap out of me.

        It’s not just the lack of experience, but in the warmer regions where snow isn’t usual, the vehicles aren’t always up to the task. Buy a car up north, and it’s likely to have front wheel drive, all season tires that can handle snow (if not, people buy them), and rear defrost. I’ve been really surprised by people I’ve known experiencing their first winter up here, and their cars suck in the snow or won’t even start when it gets cold because where they lived people don’t need batteries that start in below freezing temperatures. The rear defrost thing was surprising. I assumed all cars had this, much the same way one of my friends who grew up in Louisiana assumed all homes had central AC.

  4. JoAnna*

    My husband has to work on Christmas Day, but unfortunately gets none of those perks (well, except for #7). :( It’s usually an extremely busy day, and as he’s at home there’s no office food or potlucks. And he never gets a bonus.

    He works from home full-time, doing tech support for a large computer company – rhymes with Mapple. Apparently people will shrivel up and die if they can’t get tech support for their new iDevice on Christmas Day. The double pay is a nice, I’ll admit, but we’d rather have the family time (especially since it’s our youngest son’s first Christmas).

    1. JMegan*

      Aw, that’s rough. :( Hope you can figure out a way to squeeze some family time in around the tech support!

      1. JoAnna*

        He only works until 4:30pm, so we’ll do our private family Christmas celebration once he’s done for the day. Still, that’s a loooooooooong time for little kids to wait to open their presents. (For logistical reasons, the only time we have available to attend Christmas Mass is 7am, so we can’t open presents before he starts work.)

    2. Anonymous*

      I work in a large fast food chain.

      I’m working Christmas eve, Christmas day, and boxing day this year. Sadly we don’t get paid holiday or holiday bonuses and it’s almost impossible to request time off during christmas holidays (or any time during school holidays cause that’s when it’s the most busy)

      One good thing is we have reduced opening hours on Christmas day and close a bit early on Christmas eve. And we get double pay on Christmas day.

      We got a work xmas party the other week though, with free food. But I think it’s ok to go to work on Christmas day, get paid double, and we’re not open all day so I can have Christmas dinner later. And boxing day is pay and a half too.

      Last year we had plenty of customers express disgust we were open on Christmas day… then buy burgers. In case they wonder why we open on Christmas day, it’s because they want to buy burgers.

  5. steve G*

    Yeah! I am not taking off this week. Saving it for warm weather. What I am excited about is getting time to work on special projects without interruption. Some days I get talked at by various people for 2-3 hours/day.

  6. AJ*

    I never take much time off during the holidays. It’s so quiet and slow I get to do a ton of brainstorming and planning for the next few months, and I get more flexibility with my time so I never feel like I NEED to take time off. It’s great!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I have to work Friday (my day to cover the desk). I hope no one will call. Our clients will be working, but maybe they will have talked to anyone they need to talk to (and their execs will probably have the week off).

  7. ChristineSW*

    I think I’m in the minority, but I’ve really enjoyed the holidays when I was working. As I said in a previous thread this week, the office at one job was nice and quiet due to shut down of the processing areas. Plus, it was always so nice in the couple of days before Christmas seeing everyone wishing each other good wishes.

    I also enjoyed holiday lunches. We’ve talked here numerous times about how not everyone likes to attend them, but I did. At the aforementioned job in the last paragraph, my department went out for lunch every year. Most often, it was to a nearby Portuguese restaurant. Yes, I’ll admit it was partly due to the sangria :) I really disliked the job overall, but I wouldn’t have traded those lunches for anything.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      It’s amazing how the addition of a really great perk or two can take a shitty job and make it not only tolerable but, in many cases, preferable. It really is a good lesson for companies to take away: If you aren’t going to invest in good management, good pay, or good benefits, you should really be buying your employees some Sangria. Probably the best retention-increase-per-dollar a crappy company is likely to get!

    2. jmkenrick*

      I’m with you; I love the holiday time. It actually does get a bit busier for us leading up to the holiday, but being in the office on the 24th when everyone else is traveling is bliss.

      When it’s that empty it somtimes feels like I’m putting it only 1/2 the effort I normally do, and still accomplishing the same amount.

  8. Jesicka309*

    The only problem with being in the office is that it’s a struggle to do my work! My manager isn’t in to approve things, the agencies aren’t in to carry out the work that I do have approved! I hit a road block yesterday and have little to do now until the new year! :(

  9. Elizabeth West*

    Love #5. Yes, I’m THAT person, who adores potlucks. We had one on Friday, with tons of food/decorations. I’m eating the leftover fried chicken / mashed potatoes / roll right this minute. Mmmmmm cold chicken. Good thing I planned to hit the indoor track tonight anyway.

  10. Chuchundra*

    I work in operations, so we’re always working. Nights, weekends, holidays, you name it, we need to have staff on shift.

    Used to be that we would shut our facility down from Thanksgiving through New Years. All of the ops people would go off shift and work a normal, eight hour, Monday to Friday schedule. We’d work on our side projects or help the technical groups do maintenance or whatever. It was a great time to take a week or three off because, unlike during run time, we didn’t have to arrange any coverage.

    We’d also have our Operations holiday luncheon during that time. It was the only time we could all be together in the same room at the same time.

    That ended a couple years back. We still shut out main facility down, but the new one was being built and needed around the clock monitoring. So we stay on shift around the year. We make arrangements for Christmas and Thanksgiving, but other than that, we work.

    In fact, the new machine is mostly done now and we’ve been under the gun to get it operational by mid year, so there was some talk that we would run commissioning through Christmas this year…and I was scheduled to work that day. Luckily, the director allowed us to have a couple days off.

    Back to work on the 26th, though. Full steam ahead.

    1. IronMaiden*

      One place I used to work had three shifts that had to be covered year round. On Christmas day (and I think Easter Sunday), there was an arrangement that the afternoon shift could come in an hour late, while the morning shift would leave an hour early, There was no arrangement for the third shift, which was very unfair.

      1. Third shift worker*

        Is the extra hour off paid or unpaid? If it’s paid, then the simple thing to do to make things fair is just tack on an extra hour’s worth of pay onto third shift paychecks. If the time is unpaid, it really doesn’t seem unfair to me. It’s just an hour. No big deal. And I currently work third shift, so I feel competent to speak on this.

        I like the third shift because I can be flexible about how I choose to spend my daylight hours. I do have to make sure I sleep for long enough to be well rested, but I can choose whether that’s in the morning or afternoon. So third shift has some advantage on a holiday in being able to pick the best part of the day to be doing things with family. Sure, you do have to sleep part of the day, but don’t some people who have the whole day off choose to do that on a holiday anyway? :)

        1. Third shift worker*

          And I should add to this, it can be a really nice advantage to get to spend time with family during daylight and yet still get to go into work that night and get paid. If you are an hourly worker days off aren’t always things you look forward to, because your paycheck is smaller that week which can make it harder to pay bills. So third shift is nice because you can enjoy the family time without actually having to miss a day of work.

  11. Anne*

    I’m at work today, just until noon, and I love it. It’s just me. my manager and one of the senior developers in. We were here yesterday too, and my manager and I will be in next Monday and Tuesday. Manager said “eh, leave at noon tomorrow and let’s call it 10-4:30 next week”. Really nice. Senior developer has music playing and brought in hot bacon rolls for breakfast.

    I imagine it’ll be different when I have kids but until then, I’m working every Christmas. :)

  12. Glor*

    Honestly, this year “having a job” is the best thing about working through the holidays. That, and having an incredible GM who goes out of her way to support us on holidays by having giant raffles [40″ TV, what?!] and tons of food. I’m not super excited about the actual calls themselves, since I imagine there will be the usual amount of inanity that goes with working at a call center, but the holiday pay, free food, and hilarious office chat will help, I’m sure.

      1. Glor*

        Gotta admit my brain did the same thing when I started working there and I heard the stories. Seriously, it’s so far beyond any other workplace I don’t have the words.

        Like, when the iPhone 5S launched and we had a 12a-6a shift, she ran raffles and cooked us bacon, pancakes, and eggs — by hand. None of that catering crap. Thanksgiving, more raffles, more food, and she was there most of the day. Tomorrow, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was there at least part of the day, and I’ve heard Stories about the vast amounts of food brought in on Giftmas. So. Yeah, it does actually happen. I lucked out, basically.

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