Being Stuck At Work During The Holidays Is Becoming A Rarer Phenomenon

BlogHer Original Post

After tomorrow, rush hour traffic should be delightfully light, phones will be eerily quiet, Outlook calendars will have blank spaces,email boxes will not be quite so full,and cubicle workers will not have to plug in iPod earbuds just to drown out the noise from fellow workers.

Ah yes, it's beginning to feel a like like Christmas Corporate American Style .

We are heading into the time of year that Alex Williams of The New York Times refers to as The Lost Week. Williams, writing in the Style and Fashion section (May I just say I don't get how this is a style and/or fashion story ) was referring to the  work week between December 25 and December 31st.

What percentage of people actually go to work during The Lost Week? 

From where I sit in Minneapolis,it doesn't seem like many people are planning to do the 9-5 next week.

The usual suspects still have to show up at work: police officers, fire fighters, hospital employees,media types --superstars and the-not-so superstars will probably be off with their regular substitute's substitutes sitting in for them-- unless the substitute's substitute's have been laid off.

Restaurant workers will still be on the job. So will everyone working retail. But office workers, not so much.

People used to fight for time off during the Lost Week. At my old agency, we gave people a choice: either they could have the week before Christmas off  so they could prepare for the holiday, or they could take The Lost Week.

It was their choice.

We didn't close completely because back then - 15 years ago-- many of our clients worked during the holidays and it was not unusual for us to have deadlines right up until December 31st.

Work life has changed in those 15 years and it is a rare client who hasn't earned enough vacation days to stay away from the office until the new year.

Businesses seem to have relaxed their attitude about the week as well. Many busineses had policies that only a certain percentage of people could take vacation time during the holiday. The thinking was it wasn't fair to those who had to work.

Somwhere that approach was replaced with the current attitude that as long as you can staff work with a skeletal crew to take care of the essentials, why not just think of it as a Lost Week?

 Now it seems like the prevailing attitude is that there are too many distractions during the holidays to really concentrate on work. It is the one week out of the year where on the Work Life Balance-o-meter-- life wins out.

Earlier this week the Workforce Institute published the findings from their latest Harris Survey on Who's Working The Holidays.

This year, 20 percent of respondents who work full time say their office will be closed between Christmas and New Year’s Day as opposed to 18 percent in 2007.

The New York Times article is reporting that this year,The Lost Week has very different implications than in past years.

Companies in industries like high technology and manufacturing, pressed to the wall by the recession, are forcing workers to take the week off for accounting reasons as well as to reduce lighting and heating bills. Other people will also be taking the week off for the first time — not to dash off to ski at Killington, Vt., but because they lost their jobs.

If 20% of the companies participating in the survey indicate they will be closed for The Lost Week, that means 80% will be open for business and that means someone is going to have to show up for work.

In Canada, there is a sense that " singles" or "married without children"are the people who are automatically assigned Holiday Detail.

In its most extreme form, one can call it "singlism," a term coined by University of California psychologist Bella DePaulo. Family status routinely plays into some bosses' decisions for who gets a holiday and who stays at work, says Prof. DePaulo, the author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.

"Co-workers and bosses say, 'Oh you can cover. What do you have to do on the holidays?' " she says. "I think that's totally inappropriate even if it were true. It has nothing to do with your work."
The Globe and Mail

Maybe not. But as someone who has been single, married, married with kids, single with young kids and now single with young adults, my attitude towards working on the holidays is dramatically different than it was when I had young children.

I would say today...if I were working in an office or if I had the opportunity to work for someone else on Christmas Eve and Christmas I would jump at the chance.

Hopefully,the people who are left minding the shop during the Lost Week are people who are fundamentally happy to do it.

What about you? Is tomorrow you last day of work for 2008? 

Or are you one of the few who will be minding the shop?


Elana writes about business culture at FunnyBusiness

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