Holidays: To Go or Not to Go on Vacation?


The holiday season is upon us! Actually, I believe the holiday season officially began around October 1, when the Halloween horror movies started airing continuously and the Christmas commercials were already peppered in among them. But in addition to the compulsory shopping, binge eating, and general stress, there is a silver lining: Vacation time off.

But should you take it?

The arguments in favor of taking vacation time off are rather strong:

  • Sleeping as much as you like.
  • Eating whenever you like.
  • Wearing whatever you like.
  • Going away wherever you like.

And of course,

  • Not doing any work.

However, because I have to write quite a bit more in order to be paid for this article, I’m going to spend the next thousand words or so explaining to you why you should stay at your desk instead of going someplace pleasant, or visiting family, or even just relaxing around the house.

The Calendar Year

For whatever reason, quite a lot of the business world cares a great deal about the date January 1. This is because many, many things start on that poor hung-over date, such as health insurance plans (in America) and government contracts (everywhere). This means that certain types of people, including salesmen, contractors, and calendar printers, are actually doing more work as the year winds down.

This feels contradictory in some ways because the fiscal year for many companies revolves around October 1 (for arcane governmental reasons that can only be understood using statistics and astrology). So some folks are gearing up for the fourth quarter crunch just as everyone else is wrapping up their third quarter projects.

Why should this impact your holiday plans? Well, an awful lot of very important decisions can be made during the fourth quarter by very tired, stressed people who are trying to cover all the bases while their coworkers are off on a tropical beach (or visiting their parents, if that sort of thing amuses you). What sorts of decisions, you ask? Budgets, staffing, assignments to projects, work plans, schedules, and many other mundane things that could make or break your year.

Those weary decision makers are going to wander the halls and ask for input from whoever has the time. So, do you want extra money to go to a conference? Do you want to be included on the boring government contract or on the exciting private contract? Do you think you can finish a project in one month or three?

You might want to stick around to answer those questions.

Peace of Mind

What do you suppose goes on at work while you’re not there?

Some say that the entire office turns into an exciting night club where everyone is drunk and much more physically attractive, and they are all having entirely too much fun, which is why it seems that nothing has been accomplished in your absence.

Others theorize that all of your office enemies coalesce into an unholy alliance to take credit for your achievements while blaming you for their failures, which is why everyone either ignores you or gives you dirty looks when you get back.

The truth of the matter is that everything goes plunging forward right on schedule as you knew it would. Unfortunately, this is a very bad thing. Because, despite the fact that most of our holidays have been around for several centuries, most of our work plans don’t take those holidays into proper consideration.

So your week with the family may just cross a critical deadline. Which is not ideal.

You Can Do Better

The end of the year is a terrible time to go away. To be more precise, the end of the year is a terrible time to arrive anywhere.

Why?

Is it because the tourist season is over? Is it because the weather is miserable? Is it because the Mayan calendar predicts horror and disaster?

No, it’s because it’s the holidays, and much of the world has major holidays near the end of the calendar year, and much of the world would like to take some time off. So your destinations are closed, or understaffed, or all be-decked for the holidays instead of for skiing or surfing or whatever it is you want to be doing.

So you will have escaped your work world only to plunge into someone else’s work world. And now the people who weren’t able to get any time off are taking care of your vacation, during their holiday. Which is also not ideal.

You’re Cheating Yourself

You say you want to take time off during the holidays. Why? To sit in horrid traffic, to board crowded planes, to sleep in filthy hotels, and all to be with distant family for one large meal that will be charged with family stress and drama.

Thank you, no.

But what is the alternative? Well, obviously, stay at work.

“Work?” you exclaim in despair. “But work is stressful and unpleasant, with no feasting or presents!”

But you’d be wrong. Because all the bigwigs at your company, who are terribly important, are quite comfortable going away during the holidays. Which means they aren’t at work. Which means they’re not around to stress you out.

So if you stay at work, you might find yourself quite alone on any given day. Your entire team might be away. In fact, you could deliberately volunteer to stay at work, to mind the shop, so to speak. They might even thank you for it.

With no one around, there’s no one to give you new work to do. And there’s no one to answer your questions, so you can’t be blamed if your work comes to a standstill until your boss returns.

Which means you may find yourself puttering about the internet, reading articles about why you should stay at work instead of taking time off during the holidays. And that sounds rather nice.

So When to Get Away?

If you shouldn’t take your vacation during the holidays, when should you?

Not during the summer, because that is the height of the tourist season when prices are high and popular destinations are crowded with (shudder) other people.

Not during the winter, because the weather is wretched and there’s nothing to do.

Spring is a decent choice, because the world is decently priced and fairly pretty to go traveling about in. September is equally decent, for the same reasons.

But I wouldn’t have any of them. I would take off Monday and Friday. Lots of them, throughout the year, each carefully timed to not ruin my work or give me anything to worry about. Granted, 3-day weekends don’t really give you time to go anywhere, but it does give you plenty of time to do nothing.

And isn’t that the ideal vacation?

ThinkGeek Giveaway: The Cubicle Doorbell

The office may be empty at this time of year, but that’s no reason not to prepare for one everyone’s back in! ThinkGeek’s Cubicle Doorbell helps you deal with that guy who usually sneaks up behind you and watches you work for a moment before announcing his presence. Now you can train him to enter the cubicle in a more civilized way!

“Q: Why would anyone possibly want a doorbell on their cubicle? Typically, visitors knock loudly on the cubicle partion, shuffle/stamp their feet, or clear their throat repeatedly to get your attention. The Cubicle Doorbell provides a fun way for visitors to announce their arrival.”

To win this prize, take a funny office photograph and post it on Photobucket or something like that, leaving a link to it in the comments here. Use your creativity. Make me laugh. The photo that makes me laugh loudest wins. Make sure the email address you leave with your comment is correct–it’s only visible to Envato staff, and we need it to tell you if you win. See this post for terms and conditions.


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Joseph Lewis is a writer and editor who has worked in the public and private sectors, including military, health care, and technology firms. Visit Joe's site
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