Fifty-one weeks out of the year, I pity my friends that chose to work in education, given that they make a pittance in return for teaching the young minds of our future leaders. But there’s one week that I actually envy them: the week between Christmas and New Year’s, because while their workplaces are closed for “Christmas Break” (or whatever the PC term is for that these days), my chosen career in the business world – and specifically investments – means that my office is open and more likely than not, I’m going to get stuck working.
Generally, I’ve found that those of us unlucky enough to be working this week have fallen victim to one of the following scenarios:
A.) You blew the minimal amount of vacation time you got for the year on attending some of the approximately eighty-seven bachelor / bachelorette parties you were invited to, so you don’t have any time left to take off.
B.) You fell victim to the doe-eyes of your coworker Sally, who pleaded with you to cover the week so she could be home with her snot-nosed kids during break.
C.) You are originally from the area where you work, so everyone just assumes that since you don’t have to travel for the holiday, you’ll be in.
D.) You’re the low-man on the totem pole, so you’re stuck.
E.) You realize that it’s going to be a total joke of a week to work, so you’d rather save your valuable vacation time for another week when you’d have to do actual work.
Whatever the reason, you’re in the office and reading this, so you at least should make the best of it. Here are some tips:
Set Low Expectations (To Match Your Motivation)
The first year I worked this week, I tried to be all positive. “Oh my God, I’ll get so much done with no one around!” “This will be the perfect time to finally get around to that project I haven’t had time for!” “I’ll totally organize myself so I’m ready to kick off the new year!” Yeah, no. None of that actually happened. Why? Because my motivation was at about a negative 37. So now, I instead realistically plan ahead, leaving just enough work to be done that my boss thinks I accomplished some things in the office while he was out skiing with his family, but not so much that it actually requires me to use more than the bare minimum of brain power.
Gather A Crew
Odds are that there will be at least one other person in each department at your company who, like you, drew the short end of the holiday coverage stick. If your firm is small, you probably know them, but if not, you may need to walk around and introduce yourself while commiserating over the fact that you’re in the office. Once you’ve identified the other suckers who are in, get a group together to engage in some activities to pass the time; in my office, we order out for pizza, forward our phones to our cells, and sit in a conference room for two hours chowing down and watching a Christmas movie.
Strategically Schedule Your Tasks
You know how there are apps that will let you schedule your social media posts for “maximum visibility?” Well, the same concept applies to your work during holiday weeks – and email in particular. Unfortunately, no reliable apps exist for this yet, so you’ll have to do this on your own. I personally like to send an email that my boss will see about once every two to three hours so he thinks I’m consistently working when I’m really playing solitaire in between sending messages. There’s a trick to this, though: you have to keep the type of email varied so that it’s not too obvious. For example, one email will be a direct question or comment sent just to him; another will be an email sent to my entire team with a status update on a project; and the last will be a meeting request for when he gets back to the office.
Sidenote here: if you have one of those pesky IM programs that lets people see when you are “idle,” be sure to keep waking that thing up so it constantly looks like you are available. You never know when your boss may log in from home.
Get To Know Your Barista
Okay, this one isn’t specifically in the office, but it’s one that will pay off in the long run. The line is going to be significantly shorter at your regular coffee place by the office, so take some time and get to know the people that are pouring your morning joe. Then, when the line goes back to its regular craziness, you’re in with the staff, meaning your order will likely be correct and will come out ahead of that guy who keeps rolling his eyes when they call someone else’s name.
Expand Your Mind
Use the time that you actually have to be at your desk wisely. Take the opportunity to learn something new, either by delving into the world of Reddit ( here’s a tool to help you out if you don’t want to get caught), falling down the rabbit hole of clicking in Wikipedia or taking up a podcast. It was during this week last year that I finally gave into the Serial phenomenon and I never looked back.
Hopefully these tips can help those of you stuck in the office this week make it through one of the most boring work-weeks of the year. Me? I’m on vacation this week. See ya in 2016, suckers..
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