I’ve just received an email telling me that ‘the office will be closed from 23rd December to 4th January’ … and there’s nothing unusual in that. It’s a small organisation and everyone wants to enjoy Christmas. It’s also difficult to work over this period (should you want to) so it seems fair enough.
But not everyone stops working at Christmas. After all, we expect our utilities, emergency services, news readers or internet service providers to be there when we need them. In fact in 2009, according to Skype (as reported by The Guardian), 5.8 million Britons were working on Christmas Day, 23 million on Christmas Eve and 19 million on New Year’s Eve.
A few years ago, I remember a consultant telling me that he found it impossible to do sensible work with organisations from the middle of December through to the middle of January. At the time I thought him rather a Scrooge (we were one of the organisations he was trying to work with), but now I do that sort of thing myself I can see his point. Why has everyone disappeared when I want to talk to them?!
You shall go to the ball
There are plenty of people in the arts who are working over the festive period. Children’s shows, pantomimes, New Year’s Eve parties … and there are those who don’t want to celebrate Christmas. For these people, well-wishers saying ‘I hope you will be having a well-earned festive break’ will seem just plain annoying (and how do these people I’ve never met know it’s ‘well-earned’?).
When we were at Sadlers Wells for the AMA Digital Day at the end of November we could see what we imagined to be the last parts of the Cinderella set being delivered to the Stage Door. Sadlers Wells have performances on Christmas Eve and Boxing Day so that audiences can see Matthew Bourne's beautiful piece at a festive time. So someone there is working over the 'holiday'.
Which seems like a good excuse to show you their trailer:
In our always-on world we could, if we wanted, stay in touch with everyone all day everyday throughout the holidays. Will you be Tweeting, updating your Facebook profile, blogging, responding to emails? Is this work?
Time and a half
There may not be a multitude of arts marketers working at this festive time, given that marketing tends to be about the promotion before an event. However, marketing may only be part of your job description. And maybe you've come in early because of that badly selling event that's coming up soon? Or on the other hand, perhaps you're especially excited about a project you have in January. Are you are sitting in the office right now waiting to sell a ticket, update the website, Tweet about an event or lock up? Do let us know by commenting below.
There are many articles and studies around about stress at work which vary greatly in quality and rigour. For me, many miss the main point, which is that it isn't about long or unsocial working hours as such, it's more to do with choice and control, a point made very well by Andrea Broughton at the Institute of Employment Studies. In her research she notes that stress is not just the result of heavy workload and long working hours, but also 'lack of control and autonomy at work, poor relationships with colleagues, poor support at work and the impact of organisational change.' This will surely be a problem in the next couple of years as cuts hit hard and there is even greater pressure on us all to perform.
Let's hope we can keep doing the work because we want to do it, whether on Christmas Day or any other time.
Are you irritated that everyone stops working or do you think we should take more time off? If you're one of those working over the Festive Season, maybe you'd like to share your experiences by commenting below.
In the meantime, here's a group of people working hard back in the harsh winter of 1963. It's a short BFI film which was Oscar nominated and includes a wonderful soundtrack by Johnny Hawksworth? and Daphne Oram based on Sandy Nelson's 'Teen Beat'.
Have a great festive season .. you've earned it.