Turns Out, Many of Us Have Terrible Holiday Work-Life Balance, But Here’s How You Can Fix It

published Dec 10, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
Credit: Javier Pardina/Stocksy

By the time Thanksgiving hits, it’s honestly a miracle anything on my personal and work to-do list gets checked off. Between work and my relationships with friends and family, all the holiday shopping and planning and traveling, everything just kind of piles up until I finally have a few days off around Christmastime to finally breathe. And even then, I’m catching up on tasks I may have missed throughout December, which means sending emails when I should be watching “The Family Stone,” or looking over a report while I’m supposed to be enjoying my vacation. Basically? There is way too much going on to be expected to get ready for the holidays and excel at work. And don’t even get me started on company holiday parties.

LinkedIn recently compiled some data that proves that I’m not alone in my holiday frazzle. Many of us are pretty terrible at creating a holiday work-life balance. LinkedIn surveyed 2,000 professionals of all ages (18-74) and found some pretty alarming numbers. 

We’re in holiday mode at work, and in work mode when we’re on holiday

46 percent of the employees who took the LinkedIn survey confessed that they spent up to two hours a week on holiday errands at work, with Gen Z being the worst culprit. 74 percent who identified as Gen Z admitted they’re spending time at work dealing with holiday to-dos (this includes writing holiday cards, planning parties and family time, shopping online, napping the morning after staying up late prepping for the holidays, and even lying about out-of-office meetings so they can take care of holiday shopping). 

And while physically needing to be at the office definitely doesn’t help, people who work from home are struggling to finish their work and holiday planning as well—only 30 percent remote employees said they felt like it was easier to complete holiday/family obligations at home.

On the flip side, even after we’ve set our OOO auto-response on, we’re still working. 53 percent of professionals say they don’t completely log off when they’re on vacation, and 30 percent admit they check in on work-related tasks 1-2 times per day when they’re supposed to be offline.

According to the LinkedIn survey, 51 percent say someone from work has contacted them knowing they were OOO (51 percent say it’s usually a quick question and 46 percent say it’s because it’s an urgent matter only they could handle). It makes me wonder if setting an OOO message is even that impactful. While 28 percent of people surveyed say they’ve used an OOO auto-reply, 54 percent (over half!) say it doesn’t help them disconnect. 

Holiday parties are a contentious topic

Corporate holiday parties are a blessing and curse. So yes, the endless supply of alcohol and Impossible burger sliders is awesome, but what if the party cuts into time we could be spending with our friends and family? Or just like, chilling out on the couch and not thinking about work? Is it really a good idea to be drinking around your bosses and coworkers? Unsurprisingly, of the 2,000 people surveyed by LinkedIn, many felt torn about the annual corporate holiday party.

47 percent of those surveyed shared that their company is having a holiday party this year, and 76 percent of those said they’re attending but are pretty divided on how they feel about that. 40 percent love holiday parties, 45 percent say they don’t care, and 10 percent loathe them. And it turns out, the more senior you are, the more likely you are to skip out on holiday parties and other work-related holiday events. 28 percent of employees who are considered senior management and 33 percent who make $160,000 or more have lied to get out of attending.

Holiday gift-giving at work can be awkward

While some view gift-giving in the workplace as a sweet, team-building gesture, others would prefer not to partake—especially if budget is a factor, or dealing with the awkwardness of someone giving their coworker a gift who didn’t have one in return. 28 percent say they felt pressured to spend more money than they’re comfortable with, 35 percent say they’ve felt weird about receiving a gift from a coworker when they didn’t have one to give back to them, and a full 40 percent say they’d prefer if their company had a no-gift-giving policy in place.

Here’s what the experts say you can do.

On navigating holiday parties

Vicki Salemi, a Career Expert for Monster, tells Apartment Therapy that there are a few ways to avoid making company holiday parties a major stress factor for you. Salemi says, “When you go to your company holiday, you don’t have to stay the entire time. Give yourself permission to go, enjoy it, and work the room.”

Plus, go to the party with a strategy in mind. Yes, this sounds formulaic, but hey! You’re technically working, right? Think of the party as an exercise in networking. “Enter the party with a strategy. Decide who you should speak with: Your boss, boss’s boss, colleagues. Check, check, check. Perhaps network with a few people from other departments, enjoy some of the food and the holiday spirit, then leave. Think of it as an extension of a conference room at work where you can network and have access to mingle with executives that you wouldn’t normally see on a daily basis.” 

Remember: You don’t have to stay for hours. Set your boundaries, talk with a few strategic people, make an awesome impression (this means not guzzling four cranberry-vodka cocktails in the span of an hour), and then head home. Pajama time awaits!

On the awkwardness of gift-giving at work

Salemi also suggests boundaries when it comes to exchanging presents in the workplace. She tells us, “You may want to approach coworkers by saying something such as, ‘This time of year especially with tight budgets for gift-giving and not knowing what to give each other can be awkward. Why don’t we forego exchanging gifts and instead have a pot luck lunch or something like that?’ Or mention that you’re into holiday cards but not gifts.”

At least you’re giving people a heads up, even if coworkers end up not going with your suggestions.

Another way around expensive gift-giving? Plan a holiday cookie party! Salemi says, “The point is it shouldn’t feel like you have to out-do each other from a budget perspective, but rather, focus on the gesture and thought.”

How to unplug from work during the holidays (or at least, put in your best efforts without stressing yourself out even more)

The reality is that, no matter how many boundaries you may try to set with yourself, you might end up caving and checking your inbox. Salemi tells Apartment Therapy, “If you’re getting anxious not keeping on top of your emails, set boundaries with yourself such as OK, I’ll check at 10 a.m. and again at 6 p.m.”

We’re almost halfway through December. And you know what? You’ve got this. Cheers!