Not Everybody Gets a Break: Working Through the Holidays

Katherine McCallum
Dec 20, 2019
min read
Person at computer with antler headband

Are you working through the holidays? Not everybody gets a break. If you’re one of those who keeps working through the holiday season, be careful. It can be the riskiest time of year.

Let’s face it, some people do more essential work than others. We can easily do without copywriters over the Christmas period, I’ll be the first to admit it.

But that’s not the case when it comes to medical professionals, emergency services, petrol stations, bus drivers, hospitality workers and people who keep our utilities running. (There are more, but that gives you some idea of what I mean.)

First of all, if that’s you, thank you. It would be a pretty dismal holiday for everyone else if you didn’t take on that load.

Secondly, take care. According to Worksafe Victoria, over the last decade 22% of all workplace deaths happened in November and December, and 51 people died at work during the holiday season. 

Whether you or a loved one are clocking up the hours, you employ others, or you’re simply benefiting from the fact that it’s someone else doing it (and let’s face it - most of us depend on that), then here are a few things to keep in mind.

1: Fatigue: more than just tired

Tired dog at Christmas

Some industries are busier over the holiday period than at any other time. (Think of all that last minute Christmas shopping - it’s not elves who are stocking the shelves, finding your click-and-collect order, and doing long shifts late into the night.)

SafeWork Australia says fatigue can have serious consequences. Doing long hours, without enough breaks during or between shifts, results in more than just feeling a bit tired. You can lose concentration as well as physical coordination. And that can lead to workplace accidents. That’s particularly true for young people hired just for the Christmas period, who don’t necessarily have a great deal of experience to fall back on.

2: People still have lives outside work

People blowing confetti on Christmas party

Just because you’re not on holidays, that doesn’t mean you don’t have cultural and social commitments that you’re obliged to (and want to) attend. That can mean burning the candle at both ends, and it’s really hard to sustain. Sometimes it means turning up to work with little sleep, or hungover, or possibly still under the influence, all of which make it harder to handle complicated work situations, decision making, and even conflict.

3: Depression & anxiety can affect people more during this time of year

Sad worker at Christmas

It’s hard to be at work when the rest of the world seems to be winding down, and it’s difficult not to resent that. Maybe you’re missing out on time with your kids or your friends, or important cultural or religious celebrations. Instagram feeds are full of people relaxing, having fun, going on holidays. When you’re getting up and going to work as usual, that can really get you down. On top of that, holidays can already be very difficult if you’re living with mental health issues, grieving, or feeling lonely. 

Working through the holidays doesn’t have to be a bad thing if we understand the extra pressures at play.

If you aren't working over the Christmas break then let's spare a thought for those that are. Whether it's being extra courteous to your Uber driver or being understanding if your local barista is a bit late with your morning coffee during the holiday period.

If you need some help dealing with things over the Christmas/New Year period, or you just want to talk to someone, don’t hesitate to call Beyond Blue or Lifeline. If you’re an employer, WorkSafe Queensland has some tips for looking after your workers during the holiday season. For the rest of us - everybody deserves a break. A little understanding for people who don’t get one can go a long way.

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