Clocking In on Christmas: How to Handle Working Over the Holidays / Work Life / Last Modified: February 22, 2017

Many small business owners say they’ve worked during one or more holidays. Here's how to handle it.

According to a study by Zurich Business Insurance, nearly one in five small business owners surveyed have worked on Christmas Day, with almost a third missing out on various related celebrations during the holiday period.

Wait, wasn’t one of the ideas of owning your own business a better life/work balance? Not to have to put up with that jerk of a boss who gives you a deadline on Christmas Eve? So why are you inflicting a draconian schedule on yourself?

Of course, when you own your own business, you feel even greater responsibilities to your employees, your customers and your investors than you would as an employee. It’s hard to just let everything go, particularly if your business is in an uncertain stage.

Yet this may be precisely the time when you need to let things go for a bit. To paraphrase a famous expression, you deserve a break for a couple of days.

Related article: Holiday Hustle: Last Minute Marketing Tips to Drive Seasonal Sales

Interestingly, at least one survey reports that older business owners are more likely to work through the holidays than younger entrepreneurs, who seem to have a “better grip when it came to juggling priorities.” Daniel Hunter at Fresh Business Thinking quotes one executive’s observation:

Getting a good work-life balance is very tricky, but it’s really important that we all switch off occasionally. It’s a question of balance: If you’re waiting to board a plane, relaxing with a coffee or stuck in a queue, why not login and check your emails or accounts. On the other hand, when you’re spending time with the family or headed for the beach or ski slopes, I say leave your work behind.

Easier said than done. Here are some hints to help handle working (or not) during the holiday season, which is stressful enough without having to worry about work.

Can’t That Email Wait?

The trick here is to set your priorities. Typically, business owners are playing a game of ice hockey with multiple pucks. While it might be absolutely essential to shoot certain pucks at the goal, more than a few could probably stay in play, at least until the holidays are over. Figure out what’s absolutely essential to get done, get it done, and leave the rest until the New Year arrives.

Key to any work/life balance is weighing the importance of a family or social commitment to a work commitment. Your kid is only going to be in that holiday pageant once. Is there anything really going on at work that can’t wait until after you see it?

Related article: Seasonal Stats: Using Market Research to Make Strategic Holiday Plans

Leave Work at Work

Technology has blurred the distinction of what we do at work and what we do in regular life. We shop online at to work, we read email at home. This is called “work/life blending.” 

There’s nothing wrong with it. But during the holidays, maybe it’s time to keep things separate. Turn off the smartphone, the iPad, the laptop or whatever it is that keeps you connected to all things work-related. Get done what needs to get done, read your last email, go to the holiday party and go home. Take a break. You’ll be more refreshed and focused when you get back to work after the holidays.

Some Businesses Can’t Stop for Holidays

Okay, some businesses run 24/7 and you just can’t shut down because of the holidays. Just as you manage the time of your employees during the holiday season, with certain key personnel having to be available, manage your own time as well. So maybe you have to work Christmas Day (retailers, we’re looking at you, though really, ask yourself if you can’t be closed on this one day). 

Set aside another day to celebrate with your family. Keep in mind that it’s the time spent sharing the holiday with your loved ones, not the particular date. Just try to keep it close to the actual date of Christmas (or other holiday).

Related article: 6 Creative “Gifts” to Give Your Employees this Holiday Season

Practice Some Holiday Cheer

Kat Boogard notes that even when you have to work during the holidays, you can still be cheerful about it. Your cheer is bound to improve not only your state of mind and well-being but those of everyone around you.

Bring in some holiday treats for all of your co-workers. Put in some earbuds and listen to festive music while you’re working. Enjoy an afternoon mug of hot chocolate. Or, head out on your lunch hour for a quick walk through the snow. Anything you can do to take some time and enjoy the spirit of the holiday season is sure to boost your mood and help you avoid feeling like you’re missing all of the festivities just to sit at your desk!

Tune Out Distractions

Finally, some words of wisdom from Philadelphia Magazine writer Gene Marks on how business owners can better enjoy the holiday season: “That stupid Paul McCartney song. No, business owners are not having a ‘wonderful Christmas time.’ Turn that damn thing off.”



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