Bright Side of Working At the Holidays

Businessman kicked back
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By Alison Green

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 co-workers who are away. Vendors, clients and others outside your office who you work with normally 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 co-workers, 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 co-workers from diverse cultural backgrounds. And you can see what sorts of things your co-workers 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 closes down between Christmas and New Year's and pays employees for that time, you have a full extra week of paid vacation to enjoy.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager's Guide to Getting Results, and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development.

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