While most of us sit down for a turkey dinner and tear open presents, spare a thought for those working on Christmas Day

Working on Christmas Day2

The idea of working on Christmas Day was once considered sacrilege – the one day of the year when everyone downs tools to spend time with family.

For many, it is still a sacred time and plenty of people wouldn’t dream of even logging into their emails and writing reports instead of tucking into turkey and playing board games.

But there appears to be a growing trend of bosses and entrepreneurs who don’t feel they can take even 24 hours’ break.

Research by professional marketing products provider Vistaprint found that 53% of small business owners will be working on Christmas Day this year – citing the increased pressure to stand out and meet customers’ expectations during the festive period.

Working on Christmas Day
Spare a thought for those working on Christmas Day (Photo: US Air Force)

Of those, 63% expect to work at least six hours and 18% anticipate working more than ten hours straight, according to the survey of 500 UK company owners with fewer than 50 staff.

We speak to four business owners who are split on spending the big day chained to their desk.


Why I’m working on Christmas Day

Robbie Toan, operations director of Cheshire-based Assured Pharmacy

I’ll be working over the Christmas period and on the day itself to keep track of our sales, stock, maintain our online systems and to ensure that someone is on hand in case of any issues at all arising.

I’ve worked every Christmas since founding Assured Pharmacy in 2014.

It might be because I’m just too much of a workhorse – even on my days off I’ll catch myself working from my phone before I even realise.

Assured Pharmacy MD Robbie Toan, working on Christmas Day
Assured Pharmacy MD Robbie Toan

But I’m very proud of what we as a company have accomplished so far and I put that down to the efforts of myself and my team.

I’ll get up and go to work as normal over the festive period. On Christmas Day I’ll spend a few hours in my home office but make sure my phone is on and with me all day.

This lets me spend quality time with my family, while staying available to resolve anything that might come up.

It can be difficult to juggle a work-life balance, especially during busier periods, but I think I’ve managed it.

I recognise the work-life balance that works for me, may not work for everyone.

Being able to spend quality time with your friends and family, or even just being able to switch-off from your job is hugely important.

Research has shown that those who take more holidays feel greater job satisfaction and are also more productive, so for me, it’s a no-brainer.

I want my staff to do well and feel appreciated, so that’s why I encourage them all to take their holidays and enjoy themselves, especially over the Christmas period.

That way we hit the New Year running and fully motivated.

I have staff that have offered to work over the holidays or told me that they’ll still be contactable if needed, and I think this is due to the environment we have created and everyone here wants to do everything they can.

While I respect this and cannot force people to switch off, I do try and stress the importance of a break.


I’ll be checking in over Christmas – but family comes first

Alister Esam, former boss of eShare and now CEO of Newbury-based business process management tool Process Bliss

Having launched my second business in 2018, I am highly motivated and invigorated right now, and I will personally be checking in over Christmas.

I’ll be checking in a lot because I will be missing work when I’m not there, and it’s actually the thing in life that I enjoy doing most.”

But I do enjoy holidays and the festive period. Over Christmas, friends and family come first, work comes second.

Process Bliss CEO Alister Esam, working on Christmas Day
Process Bliss CEO Alister Esam

So if we’ve got friends and family staying, I may get up early one morning, but if I do it is purely to fill the gaps because I enjoy it when perhaps no one’s around.

But work takes second place to everything else at Christmas and I would never force any of the team to work.”

But if people are happy to work, I find it’s really a good time for reflection, rather than ploughing through your to-do list.

It’s nice to have different periods, or different places to work because you come up with different ideas and that’s especially true at Christmas, with people working and thinking with a different mentality to how they usually do.


Why I definitely won’t be working on Christmas Day

Helen Jamieson, founder and CEO of nationwide HR consultancy Jaluch, based in Hampshire

Business is a long game. Very few of us are in it for just a couple of years.

So you have to look after yourself and that means knowing when to down tools and enjoy life outside of work.

I suffered burn out in my 40s – clearly I should have downed tools far more often than I did.

Jaluch MD Helen Jamieson, working on Christmas
Jaluch MD Helen Jamieson

It’s not a great thing to experience and takes years to get over, if ever you do. So boundaries are essential and one of those, in my view should be Christmas Day.

Life is short, health is to be treasured so if you can’t switch off for just one day to spend quality time with family or friends then that’s pretty sad.

I see it a bit like a gambling or any other addiction. It’s great to be passionate, committed and invested but if it takes over your life – if it kicks everything else into touch – that’s when it’s become a dangerous addiction, and you develop and exhibit all the tell-tale signs of an addict: tunnel vision, intolerance of others, impatience and selfishness.

What’s the point in having children and family if all you ever do is push them away?


Why a CEO should take Christmas off

Sam O’Connor, CEO of Coconut

I come from big a family and Christmas is a special time as it’s rare that we’re all together in one place.

Now I have two young kids and run a business, I find that it is even more important to embrace the downtime and spend time with the family.

Someone much wiser than me – let’s call him a wise man because it’s Christmas – said that family is the perfect counterbalance to entrepreneurship.

Sam O’Connor and Adam Goodall, co-founders of Coconut

And I find it refreshing switching from thinking business to something highbrow like Frozen or other festive Disney classics!

2018 has been particularly busy for us with our sole trader product launch in January and we’ve been growing fast so Christmas will be welcome break.

It’s good to get headspace to reflect and generate ideas. Christmas is unique for this in the sense that most other people are taking time off too, so it’s quiet.

Of course, I can’t totally switch off. Coconut is a banking business and not all our customers stop working, so we have to keep operating over Christmas.

I still need to be there for the team and will step-in to support when necessary – it’s really important for the team have enough downtime too.

I always aim to take time off over Christmas and encourage employees to do the same – if we can all refresh then we will go into the New Year collectively stronger and with renewed energy, which makes what we do more effective and enjoyable.


This story was originally published in December 2018.