A few years ago, I was gearing up for what I was sure would be The. Worst. Christmas. Ever. I was an intern at a small daily newspaper and had been assigned to work on December 25.
While all my friends were unwrapping presents and sipping eggnog by the fire, I would be formatting the weather page and—I kid you not—editing obituaries. Nothing says “Merry Christmas!” like grammar-checking death notices, right?
If you’re stuck working on a holiday, hopefully your tasks are a little cheerier than mine were. Still, being in the office when everyone else is celebrating isn’t ideal, so I’ve rounded up a few tips to soften the blow.
Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate
Sometimes, working on a holiday is unavoidable. After all, can you imagine what would happen if every doctor, airline pilot, taxi driver, and police officer insisted on taking Thanksgiving off?
That said, you often have a little room to negotiate. Depending on the nature of your job, ask your boss if you can work from home. If that’s not an option, inquire about splitting a shift so that you only work half of the holiday.
And if you absolutely have to be in the office the entire day, ask about getting an extra day off over the next holiday to make up for it. The promise of a four-day weekend over New Year’s or a few days to visit your family might make working now a little more bearable.
Reschedule the Holiday if You Can’t Reschedule Work
There’s no real reason that you have to celebrate Thanksgiving on the fourth Thursday of November or Christmas on December 25, right? If you know that you’ll have to be at the office on a holiday, ask your loved ones if they’re willing to reschedule their holiday plans to accommodate your work schedule.
And if your family gathering can’t be bumped to another day, throw your own holiday shindig. You might be surprised by how many friends are excited for a chance to share their Thanksgiving leftovers at a post-Turkey-Day potluck or take a break from family activities and have a December 26 holiday movie marathon. You could even make like George Costanza and throw a rocking Festivus party.
It doesn’t matter what or when you choose to celebrate. By finding a time when you can experience the holidays—be it with family, friends, or even by yourself—you’ll feel a little less like you missed out on all fun.
Avoid Social Media
OK, so you’re at the office on a holiday, and chances are that you’re feeling a bit lonely and bored. Your natural tendency might be to log onto Facebook or kill a little time scrolling through Instagram photos on your phone.
Big mistake. Looking at pictures of everyone else celebrating with their families and relaxing after a big holiday feast will only put you in a funk. If you have to, leave your cell phone in your car or power it off and put it in your coat pocket.
Instead, when you need a break, go for a short walk or grab a snack. You’ll stay focused and positive, and you’ll avoid falling victim to that “poor me” feeling that comes from looking at pictures of all your friends having fun without you.
Make it Count
What’s worse than working on a holiday? Working on a holiday and being so bummed, distracted, or unfocused that you don’t accomplish a single thing.
It can be hard to be productive if you’re the only one in the office, or if you really want to be out celebrating with the rest of the world, but, believe me, you’ll feel much better about being at work if you make the most of your time there.
Write a list of tasks you hope to accomplish during your shift and cross them off one-by-one as you complete them. Not only will you feel productive, but the time is guaranteed to go by much faster than if you spend the day sending mopey “Happy Holiday” texts and imagining the food you could be enjoying.
Nobody wants get stuck at the office over a holiday, but by finding other ways to celebrate and making the most of your time at work, you can survive the experience without feeling like a total Scrooge.
Oh, and wondering what happened during my dreaded Christmas at the office? My family rescheduled our activities for earlier in the day so that I could make it to my afternoon shift at the paper. Although it seemed a little strange to be eating a big holiday dinner at noon, it was definitely better than missing out on the fun altogether.
Plus, because I worked Christmas, I was able to negotiate a few extra days off over New Year’s to fly to Chicago and hang out with my new boyfriend—who eventually became my husband. (We like to say we fell in love under the New Year’s Eve fireworks on Navy Pier.) Not such a bad holiday season after all.