During the last months of the year, we all look forward to a few days away from work to observe various holidays and spend time with loved ones. It's a time for travel, shopping, gift giving, social gatherings, and remembering the less fortunate.
But it takes creative coordination and compromise to ensure that when employees are away from the office for the holidays, the workload transitions seamlessly, and certain tasks are still accomplished while much of the workforce is away. Communication is essential – from building maintenance to the reception desk to the C-suite.
Pause for the Cause
A pause is a safe zone between "GO!" and "STOP!" – a temporary place, not a final destination. "Pressing pause" in our lives is a personal acknowledgment that we should slow down our usual pace to contemplate, evaluate, and rejuvenate our mind (and body).
Companies hold holiday receptions and parties to take a moment to recognize, celebrate and thank their employees for their service, commitment and time throughout the year. It gives everyone a chance to socialize away from their teams, and network with colleagues whom they rarely have time to see face-to-face. Some departments also have gift exchanges and potluck meals where everyone contributes food and beverages.
"Have regular hours for work and play; make each day both useful and pleasant, and prove that you understand the worth of time by employing it well."Louisa May Alcott
Creating Holiday Happiness
As the holiday season approaches, there are opportunities to create happy memories. Here are some of the typical highlights of the season – both at home and in the workplace.
Holiday highs at work:
- Learning the positive outcomes of corporate outreach.
- Supporting the annual corporate-giving drive.
- Receiving company monetary bonuses, incentives and awards.
Holiday highs at home:
- Connecting with loved ones.
- Serving the less fortunate.
- Getting to travel.
- Enjoying seasonal foods and beverages.
Bracing for Inevitable Holiday Lows
Despite the positives, some of us dread the holiday season. The anticipation, the peer pressure, trying to keep up with others – all this can cause anxiety, stress and worry. Here are some typical lows of the season.
Holiday lows at work:
- Pressure to reach sales goals or department targets.
- Heavier workloads to cover absent team members.
- the inability to delegate outstanding tasks.
Holiday lows at home:
- Remembering those who aren't with us.
- Feeling obliged to spend time with family when we don’t want to.
- Hosting pressure.
Managing the Flow
When we identify the areas that bog us down, finding solutions and minimizing the inevitable lows of the holidays becomes easier.
For holidays at home, remember that "NO" is a complete sentence. Don't feel trapped by circumstance. If there are events you must attend, understand the space and plan your exit strategy.
If money is tight, create gift and event budgets – identify savings opportunities, be disciplined, and monitor spending. Remember, you don't always have to purchase gifts! You can create a memorable experience instead (plan an outing, family craft or game night; cook a family recipe; visit museums and monuments in your area that you take for granted, etc.).
And at work, a little planning goes a long way. Get ahead of the curve by scheduling in advance the work that needs completing over a holiday season, so that you can mitigate problems and add capacity where needed. And don't be afraid to delegate and allow others to help.
"Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us."Maya Angelou
Planning Your Pause – Holiday Highs and Lows
During Friday’s #MTtalk Twitter chat, we discussed planning your pause and managing the inevitable holiday highs and lows. Here are all the questions we asked, and some of the best responses:
Q1. It's tradition to pause work during the holidays, but what do you do? Why?
@ColfaxInsurance I use my pause time to catch up on ME. Listen to music/podcasts/audiobooks I've been adding to the list – cook, clean, write, lounge, to give myself a reset, and still feel accomplished/not lazy.
@MikeB_MT There are old movies I watch, old songs I return to. And even though it might be chilly where I live, I try to spend more time outdoors. I also TRY to break from social media – at least from the daily grind of scrolling, posting, monitoring, etc.
Q2. Have you experienced an overly stressful pause? What happened?
@ZalaB_MT The most stress-induced holiday pause was when I worked FT in the corporations. There wasn't a month that we paused, it was always the go-go-go time, day or night. We often had to work late, and then go directly to home festivities. I'm grateful I'm OUT of that hell cycle.
@ColfaxInsurance Yes! On one of mine and my husband's first vacations together we got a call from the police back home informing us our pups had snuck away from our dog sitter and went for a jog around town. We were 8hrs away, and last Christmas day our cat went to the emergency room.
Q3. What are the advantages of a planned pause over a spontaneous one?
@SoniaH_MT Although things can still be missed, an advantage of a planned pause over a spontaneous one is the relief that you have reasonably covered all bases in your absence. A spontaneous pause doesn't always allow you to think as clearly or completely.
@EmaPirciu I actually think a spontaneous pause is better. The pressure to finish everything before a planned pause kills the vibe.
Q4. How can you use a "dead zone" workplace to your advantage?
@_GT_Coaching It could be an opportunity to meditate and re-energise.
@SarahH_MT I love to use 'dead zone' time to do a number of things: chill out a bit and enjoy some time off both on my own and with others; tidy my office, clear away papers and file electronic stuff; generally get organised; and reflect and plan for the next phase.
@MikeB_MT Make sure everyone in your work circle knows you're abiding by this "dead zone." Unplug. Write a thorough out-of-office message for your email. Resist the urge to even peek at work assignments. Honor everyone's quiet time.
Q5. How do you cope with the extra demands of a super-busy workplace?
@Midgie_MT One strategy is to prioritize all your work and recognize that you can only do so much in the time you have available. Sometimes making the tough call that some things will have to wait.
@ColfaxInsurance We have a standing to-do list that has all the priorities with their respective deadlines by them and we just work through one at a time and explain to clients/prospects that it may take a little longer to complete requests.
Q6. What has been your worst "holiday low" and what caused it?
@EmaPirciu I have a few bad memories. Overplanning and too high expectations were the disrupters most times.
@ZalaB_MT I think the biggest "holiday stressors" can be: expectations, lack of boundaries and self-care, lack of time, busyness, past negative experiences, not being in the right mood or mindset to celebrate or be part of the festivities, and loneliness.
Q7. What has been your best "holiday high" and what caused it?
@Midgie_MT I spent Christmas Eve with friends to enjoy some social time together. On the day, I did the traditional dip in the sea (and in Brighton U.K. it was cold!!) followed by an extra special meal that I cooked. No pressure and no stress!
@SarahH_MT Achieving everything in balance does it for me. If I can manage to switch off/chill out, spend quiet time at home, spend the right amount and quality of time with loved ones, reflect, prepare and plan for getting back to work – that's a high for me! No pressure then!
Q8. What hacks can you share about managing family dynamics during the holidays?
@SoniaH_MT One shareable hack about managing family dynamics during the holidays is regarding the dinner table. Be respectful and not vengeful when assigning seats. No need to start a food fight!
@EmaPirciu Let your kids lead the way 80 percent of the time during the holidays. For the remaining 20 percent, hire a babysitter.
Q9. How might you prevent yourself from overspending during the holidays?
@MikeB_MT Save $ throughout the year. Plan and stick to a budget that is within your holiday savings. Make gifts. And make sure you're also giving the gift of your time and presence during the season.
@SoniaH_MT To prevent yourself from overspending during the holidays, understand the difference between your required expenses and your 'desired' expenses.
Q10. What gifts can you give yourself and others that don't cost anything?
@_GT_Coaching The gift of being in their presence.
@Midgie_MT Time. Either time with yourself and a good book (with a nice hot cup of tea/cocoa) or quality time with a friend just going for a walk somewhere beautiful.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Taking a break gives the mind and body a chance to rejuvenate. With new ideas come new opportunities. Next time on #MTtalk we're going to chat about making a fresh start and managing new beginnings.
In our Twitter poll this week, we’d like to know how you're feeling about our recent big changes to the Mind Tools website.
Resources for planning Your Pause
Note that you will need to be a Mind Tools Club or Corporate member to see all of the resources in full.
Getting Your Team Through the Holiday Season
Dealing With Seasonal Changes in Workload
10 Ways to Make a Bad Day Better
Rewarding Your Team
Ready for a Real Vacation?
The 12 Dangers of the Office Party
Gifts in the Workplace
When Work Involves Socializing
Returning From Vacation
Personal Financial Stress and Wellbeing