Working The Last Week of The Year: Is it a Boon or Bust For Productivity?

I’ve worked in between the Christmas and New Year’s holiday, no problem.

I’ve also not worked during that time (and let the record show that this year is one of those that I’m not working). Depending on my role and what I have on my plate, it can be a good time to get my work issues in order for the coming year. It can also be a complete waste of time.

So when I talk to friends and relatives about working between the holidays, it is no surprise that the answers varied. What is truly intriguing is what it indicates about the individual and the work they do.

Where do you fall?

Some of the folks I know always take the time between the holidays off and some never do. Most people seem to be like myself. We might take it off one year and work it the next.

On The Wall Street Journal blog The Juggle, they reveal some interesting statistics about working over the holidays:

A new report from office-space company Regus PLC says 64 percent of U.S. employees will be working the week between Christmas and New Year’s, with 56 percent actually coming into the office.

But is anyone really productive? According to the survey of more than 12,000 employees worldwide, just 39 percent of U.S. respondents say they expect workers to actually do much work.”

Well, 64 percent is a pretty good clip, but productivity? Only 39 percent see that time as productive for workers. So what do your co-workers do if more than a third of them are gone for a full week? The Journal blogger offers her reasons:

So why bother coming in? I actually crave those quiet days. Even if I’m not able to do much work, I can still be productive. I use this time to clear through my inbox, conquer my rather messy desk and complete other tasks for which I never seem to have time. That periodic organization allows me to be more productive once work starts to pick up.”

That seems to be a common theme among friends and family who actually enjoy working in between the holidays during those late days in late December. They felt that they could get organized and caught up on tasks while their co-workers were busy hitting the after Christmas sales.

Which productivity route to take?

Are you one of those people who likes to work during the last week of the year because it helps you get caught up? Photo by 123RF Stock Photo
Are you one of those people who likes to work during the last week of the year because it helps you get caught up? Photo by 123RF Stock Photo.

So if staying in the office could actually make you more productive for the coming year, why don’t more people take advantage of that?

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Other than the holidays being one of the prime times to actually visit family (especially distant family), it seems like productivity is on the mind of many people I talked to who are taking time off this year.

People who haven’t had significant time off can actually benefit a great deal from the easily extended vacation that the holidays can offer. For only a couple of vacation days, you can extend your break to more than a week. And unlike other vacations where you might have to line up a bunch of work to help everyone else staying behind, a reduced number of people coming in (along with a reduced expectation of work) can make it less stressful.

That doesn’t mean the holidays aren’t stressful. Spending time away from home, with family, in strange beds and gorging on food can make it seem like you need a vacation from your holiday. In my mind, that makes it a perfect opportunity to extend your holiday a bit and spend time at home as well so you simply relax.

And no matter if you take a path of time off or time to catch up at work, do try to do it with some intent. If your goal is to relax and renew, make sure you find some time to do that during the holidays.

And, if your goal is to get caught up for the New Year, make sure you’re not making small talk at work or playing solitaire just because the boss, her boss and his boss are all out of the office the entire week.

Lance Haun is the practice director of strategy and insights for The Starr Conspiracy, where he focuses on researching and writing about work technology. He is also a former editor for ERE Media, broadly covering the world of human resources, recruiting, and sourcing. 
 
He has been featured as a work expert in publications like the Harvard Business Review, The Wall Street Journal, Fortune, MSNBC, Fast Company, and other HR and business websites.
 
He's based in his Vancouver, Wash., home office with his wife and adorable daughter. You can reach him by email or find him off-topic on Twitter.

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