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How To Achieve Work-Life Balance During the Holidays?

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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

Or is it? Sure, the holiday cheer is palpable and everyone at work has a pep in their step, but the holidays also usher in a bit of anxiety around the office work schedule. Who’s on vacation? What work has to get done before year’s end? How will you juggle family and that final proposal?

Yep, you can feel the anxiety building by the second.

However, the one thing you can do to combat the stress of the season is to plan for optimal work-life balance during the holidays. While you may not be able to avoid working late the night before Hanukkah, and the boss may email you despite Christmas being a company holiday, there are a few things you can do to ensure that this holiday is more balanced than last.

Don’t believe us? Read on for Glassdoor’s tips to achieving work-life balance during the holidays (Grandma’s sweet potato pie sold separately).

1. Work from home, instead of taking vacation days.

If schools getting out for winter break and the influx of tourists have made your long commute even longer, consider working from home to maintain some seasonal sanity. Whether you’re dialing into a conference call in your reindeer jammies or putting the finishing touches on a project with a cup of cider in your hand, the work is still getting done. Plus, if you suggest working from home to your manager he or she may be more amenable because at least you’re not taking 2 weeks of vacation or calling in—fake coughing—sick at the last minute.

[Related: 29 Best Jobs for Work-Life Balance (2016)]

2. When you “work from home” consider going to a coffee shop to truly get as much work done uninterrupted as you can.

Perhaps you need to really focus on getting 3 to 4 hours of real work done. And kids running around singing carols are driving you crazy. Get up early and head to a local coffee shop with your headphones and laptop to crank it out.  “Working from home” really just means working remotely, and it’s up to you to choose an environment that is both productive and distraction-free.

3. Add one more workout to your week.

Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Fancy biology words aside, going to one more yoga or TRX class during the winter weeks will help you with that extra energy you’ll need to deal with in-laws or all of those “Wish you were here” Facebook vacation pics.

[Related: Overworked & Stressed Out? 5 Ways To Balance Work & Life]

4. Do your gift shopping online 100%.

It may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many of us punish ourselves for not going to the store to buy gifts. It’s like we must haze ourselves by circling the packed parking lot or clamoring for the sale item just to prove we really love our family and friends. As my Great Aunt says, “Child, please!” Do not feel guilty for sparing your last good nerve and avoiding the big box stores or shopping malls. Make sure your nosey co-workers aren’t watching your computer screen, and get to shopping. Order now and save on shipping.

5. Put in longer hours before the holiday to build a buffer & complete projects.

Before Thanksgiving, do a little planning such that you can add one hour of work to your day, each day leading up to the end of the year. This will allow you to get more work done and hopefully put you ahead. Make sure your boss or manager knows you’re front-loading so that when they see you sneak out at 3pm on the days leading up to Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, they won’t give you a look of disapproval.

[Related: How Soon Should You Put In For Holiday Vacation?]

6. Work with your manager to hone in on the “must-do” items versus “would like to do” items.

Put some time on the calendar with your boss this month to hammer out the end of the year strategy. Part of living a balanced professional and personal life is planning and getting clear on expectations. Make a list of what has to get done, versus what he or she thinks can wait until the new year. By prioritizing, you are ensuring that you are executing the right things and creating the right deliverables. No last-minute fires to put out, that’s the goal.

7. Set up a manageable “Out of Office” reply.
Say that you won’t be checking emails, or that you’ll be delayed in responding and if it’s urgent they can call. The important thing is to give yourself the option of not being available and letting yourself off the hook from being attached to your phone. Be personal in your out-of-office message: mention spending time with your kids or include a reminder that that holiday is for R&R.

[Related: 8 Things You Should Never Say To Your Boss]

8. Set boundaries if you have to work on holidays; start early, leave early.

Many of us have to work during the holidays, yes even on Christmas Day. If possible, set expectations with both your boss and your family. Be clear as early as you can that you’ll have to leave work at a certain time or that you’ll miss the family’s annual pie eating contest because you have to work. The key is to offer an alternative: host Christmas breakfast at your place if you have to work at night, or invite the family over the night before for cocktails. As long as you make an effort both at work and at home, you can fend off those stressful holiday arguments.

9. Say “No.”

Simple as that. Whether said to your coworkers or to your friends and family. Saying “no” isn’t mean or rude, it’s protective. Only you know what’s too much for you during the holidays. Don’t be afraid to decline more work, more responsibility, or more stuff. Just say no.