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Navigating the Holiday Season as a Shift Worker

Child hugging father and smiling, festive background.


The holidays are an especially frenzied time. Between social commitments, running errands, wrapping gifts, vacuuming the floors while stirring the stew — it can take a toll even on the most laid-back people.  


This juggle is especially challenging for shift workers, who face a whole new set of challenges on top of the regular holiday festivities. One of these challenges, for example, is the irregular work hours, which can disrupt traditional holiday plans and family gatherings.   


While there’s no perfect or systematic way to handle it, doing your best to balance work and celebrations is truly a practical necessity and a crucial aspect of maintaining overall well-being.  


In today’s blog post, we will share six steps to try out in an attempt to find some harmony, joy and calm during the holiday season. What matters most is your well-being and the quality time you spend doing what you love. 


At ShiftLink, we know your time matters. We know your work matters. Interrupting your focus on caring for others to perform the time-consuming task of filling shifts in a pinch is frustrating at best. ShiftLink is not a band-aid fix. It is a response to your deepest need — to spend more time on what truly matters. We have created a software that will ease every pain point related to shift scheduling. Request a demo today or send us an email to learn more.  



Step 1: Plan Ahead 

You likely already know this, but the most important thing to do when you’re faced with an insurmountable problem is to plan.  


Planning your holiday schedule and commitments in advance will help you navigate the holiday season seamlessly. This involves proactively looking at the challenges of work scheduling and holiday commitments, anticipating potential conflicts, and making necessary arrangements


Next, create a flexible holiday schedule to accommodate the unpredictable nature of shift work. Leaving extra gaps in your daily calendar will go a long way. 


Then, take advantage of your workplace policies by requesting time off well in advance of the holiday season. This will help you better coordinate with your team, improve the likelihood of securing that preferred time off, and provide a sense of security and predictability during this especially busy time of year. 



Step 2: Communicate With Your Team 

Communicating with your team is especially important during the holiday season. It ensures that your supervisors are aware of your holiday plans and potential scheduling conflicts.  


Anxious about asking for time off or flexibility during the holidays? We completely understand. It can be a delicate matter for many. Here’s how you can approach it: 

  • Recommend a Specific Timeframe: Approach your supervisors with holiday scheduling requests well in advance. Suggest a specific timeframe, such as several weeks or even months before the holiday season, when these discussions should ideally take place. This ensures ample time for planning and minimizes last-minute scheduling conflicts. 

  • Be Transparent About Availability and Preferences: Clearly explain which holidays are most important to you, as well as any time constraints or limitations related to your work shifts. Transparency helps supervisors better understand your needs. 

  • Showcase a Willingness to Collaborate: It’s so important to meet your supervisors halfway. Be ready to propose potential solutions, such as offering to cover for colleagues on different shifts or volunteering for certain days in exchange for time off on specific holidays. Demonstrating a willingness to work together to find mutually beneficial solutions can build positive employer-employee relationships. 

  • Highlight the Benefits for the Employer: It doesn’t hurt to mention the benefits of accommodating your holiday scheduling requests. This might include improved employee morale, increased retention, and being more motivated. By framing the discussion in terms of how it can be a win-win for both parties, you could increase your chances of securing that time off! 


Lastly, find ways to collaborate with your co-workers to ensure everyone's needs are met. This could involve setting up a system for trading shifts, creating a shared calendar to track availability, or organizing team meetings to plan for coverage during peak holiday periods.  


Working together as a team, especially during the holiday season, will help everyone meet their deadlines at work while also enjoying time off with their loved ones. 



Step 3: Collaborate With Family 

Not everyone in your family or friends circle will understand the specific challenges that come with shift work. That’s totally okay! In order to best enjoy this holiday season, make it a point to collaborate with your family.


Woman looking at phone, festive background.


Here’s how you can do that: 


Create a Flexible Holiday Calendar - Create a holiday calendar that can adapt to varying work shifts. This could involve discussing alternative dates for celebrations, rescheduling events, or planning multiple smaller gatherings to accommodate different schedules. 


Prioritizing Key Celebrations - Maybe you won’t be able to attend every single party and potluck. However, by prioritizing key celebrations or traditions, you’ll ensure you participate in the most meaningful (to you) aspects of the holiday season. 


Share Responsibilities - You don’t have to do it all. Feel free to share responsibilities with family and friends when it comes to holiday planning and hosting. This could involve delegating tasks or assigning different aspects of the celebration to different individuals, lightening the load for everyone involved. 


Have Flexibility - The holidays are a hectic time for everyone. It’s important to be kind, understanding and have flexibility. Communicate your limitations and give your family and friends space to find compromises that let everyone enjoy the holiday season together. 



Step 4: Make The Most of Your Time Off 

The best way to enjoy the holiday season is to make the most of your time off, regardless of how much of it you have.  


Maybe for you this means prioritizing activities, such as spending quality time with family and friends, or participating in meaningful traditions. Whatever it means for you, just make sure you’re soaking up every moment of it.  


Ways to Unwind and Relax Between Shifts 

  • Meditating 

  • Taking short power naps 

  • Engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy and relaxation, like doing a puzzle, going for a walk to look at how the neighbours decorated their homes for the holidays, or making a festive drink 

  • Reading a book 


Self-care is important year-round. But there’s no denying that it becomes especially needed during the holiday season when it seems like the demands never end. Take time to take care of yourself. This may mean maintaining a healthy diet, staying physically active, getting adequate sleep, or seeking emotional support when needed.  


Lastly, learning how to manage your stress through techniques like mindfulness or deep breathing exercises can help you cope with the demands of both work and celebrations. 



Step 5: Adapt Holiday Traditions 

Flexibility is the most important part of enjoying holiday traditions. You can adapt your typical traditions to accommodate your work schedule, such as celebrating on different days or finding alternative ways to engage in meaningful activities. Be open to change and embrace new traditions. 


Creative Ideas for Celebrating with Family and Friends 

  • Host brunch or dinner gatherings that fit with shift schedules 

  • Plan shorter but more focused quality time with family 

  • Organize virtual holiday get-togethers for those who cannot be physically present 


Whether you get an entire day or one hour, what matters most is the quality of the time spent together. So make the most of it, even if it’s not the way you dreamed of.



Step 6: Take a Breath 

Lastly, take a breath. The holidays are a tricky time. Even though it is “the most wonderful time of the year”, there are still so many pressures and demands that come along with it.


Child decorating tree with parents watching in background.


All you can do is all you can do, so take a breath, roll your shoulders back and keep your head up. Before you know it, you’ll be writing down resolutions and ringing in a new year. The holidays will pass by before you know it, so enjoy it as much as you can.  


We hope these tips have been helpful to you. We hope you can find time to rest and recoup during this holiday season. We hope you can enjoy great food with all of your loved ones around the table. And we hope you can make the most of this festive season.


From our family to yours, Happy Holidays! 




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