The word "holiday" typically means plenty of time away from the office and a nice break from the crazy pace of work.

We believe it's all about friends, family and celebrations. And while for many people that's true, there are many of us who have a very different reality over the holidays. Millions of workers will either have to work or feel like they must check in on work responsibilities.

According to the Allstate/National Journal's Heartland Monitor poll, a quarter of Americans will work on Thanksgiving, Christmas and/or New Year's Day. Additionally, 45% of respondents said there's a chance they'll work over one of those holidays. When you take into consideration the many industries that never stop no matter the day – like utilities, travel, support, transportation, retail and medical services to name a few, it's really no surprise. Without these people working, others’ holidays wouldn't be the same.

So, if you're one of these many people who will be required to work over the holidays, or if you plan to check in to get a few things done while everyone else is celebrating, here's your survival guide:

Condense Your Work to Fewer Hours

Working days on end doesn't do much for your productivity. However, if you're forced to work over the holidays by choice or by requirement, you can try and incorporate the knowledge of many productivity studies that basically all agree on the same thing: the more we work doesn't translate to getting more done. Rather, science says we can work less to be more productive. Career expert Caroline Beaton suggests figuring out the most important priorities for your holiday work. “Ask your boss what the priorities are for November and December. Explicitly outline and schedule these tasks," she says. "Then weed all out the non-urgent miscellaneous tasks and get your priorities done early."

Stay Off Social Media

Everyone knows that social media is just one giant highlight reel of comparison. There are documented links between extreme social media use and depression. Seeing everyone's amazing Thanksgiving gatherings while you're hard at work is just a recipe for being bummed out. So, if you're required to be away from the joy of the holiday in order to be at work, don't add to your declining morale by obsessing over what everyone else is doing. It seems simple, but refraining can have positive consequences that are more than worth it.

Speak Up

Managers are known to do what they've always done – schedule shifts and responsibilities as is without thinking of alternative pathways to help out those working on the holidays. However, with a little thoughtfulness, there's actually many creative solutions that might be worth talking to your boss about, which can minimize time away from the joys of the holidays. There's plenty of things you could actually negotiate to make your holidays more pleasant. “Part of negotiating is recognizing terms that will be attractive to your boss or employer,” Beaton says. She suggests asking for more time off at different times in the year if you have to work Christmas or Thanksgiving, for example. Additionally, you can think about how to split shifts with other colleagues. Or, if your work can be done digitally then try suggesting that you work remote instead of coming into the office. What's important is to see the value in having a dialogue with your employer about how to improve the situation of having to work over the holidays… because you'll never know if you don't ask.

Plan Traditions Accordingly

One thing most people hold close about the holidays are the traditions themselves. However, if you know you have to work and will therefore be missing these traditions, you can improve your morale by making advance arrangements to shift and/or alter the timing of those traditions. “I know one family who gets together to celebrate Christmas on a random day in early December. The actual day matters less to this family than carving out a defined time for downtime with family,” Beaton said. Plus, she adds, traveling during off-peak times can make things more inexpensive and less busy. Reminding yourself of this silver lining and planning for it can help you get through working these special days.

Working throughout the holidays is never ideal, but it's the hard reality for many people. However, it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Hopefully, these tips can help you survive whatever work you're required or obligated to complete this season.


Maxie McCoy is a writer and speaker with a message: how to find and follow your inspiration for an extraordinary life. Maxie delivers inspiring writings, actionable video, and customized sessions on 
maxiemccoy.com. She also develops curriculum and offline experiences for the Millennial career website, Levo.