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The IT Blight of Working During Holidays December 24, 2015

Posted by mwidlake in humour, on-call, Private Life, working.
Tags: ,

I’ve been thinking today about those people in IT who are going to have to either work or be on call during the festive period. Twitter has become a lot more quiet today and most of the activity is not-work-related. My blog traffic is now a trickle and there is a general feeling of doing more family, non-work things for a couple of days, which I think is good for all of us from time to time. Maybe more times than current working culture and practices allow for.

The endless daily grind - even at Christmas

The endless daily grind – even at Christmas

But in the IT industry, especially if you are an administration-type (DBA, Sys Admin, Network Admin, stuff like that) there is often a need to do work at this time as systems are quiet or can even be shut down. Some places do release and upgrade work over the quiet period, so developers and designers can be pulled into festive-season work too. Even if you are the sort of organisation that has a code freeze for Christmas/New Year, there will be a rota of people who need to either monitor systems or respond if something goes “Bang!”. Those of us “blessed” with those roles will be on the on-call rota, tasked with at the least staying sober and often with monitoring duties. For some people in some organisations, you know you will in fact have an endless stream of “why in the heck am I having to do this” tasks to do.

I’ve done my share and I feel for those who are made to work over this time who really would rather not. In fact, I’ve done more than my share. Actually, A lot more than my share. You see, I do not have children – my wife and I established very early on in our relationship that producing new versions of me was a damned bad idea, even if new versions were leavened with her better characteristics {and if they got her worst ones along with mine, ohhhhh terrible consequences}. So as someone with no children there has always been more pressure on me to take more than my 1/number-in-team share of the Christmas, New Year, Easter, Bank Holiday etc work. I’ve also come under pressure not to take time off during school holidays, to cover for those who need to do so for the sake of fitting in with the kids. Now, I don’t want to go away on holiday when everywhere is covered in kids as kids are too self-centered, noisy and annoying (ie very like me) for me to put up with. But I would like occasionally to have a week off, in the summer, to sit in the garden. But the biggest pressure has always been over taking more of the Christmas work. Because, I am told, it is important family time – it’s for the kids

I get that, I do. But then, if you have kids they are actually your fault. You did things to have them. Trust me, I’ve got a degree in biology, I know where kids come from :-). At the start of my working career I was fine to take on more of the work/monitoring/staying sober duties. But as the status of not-having-kids lasts a lot longer than having-young-kids (or more recently, with people my age, young-grand-kids) it had been a constant expectation of me for about 20 years – until I stopped playing. I stopped on the grounds, after 2 decades, that I had Done My Bit. I threw my toys out my pram and said I deserved my share of time off at Christmas (to pick said toys up, of course). I solved the problem more recently by trying to be unemployed at such times.

Anyway, forgive the rant, I feel better now. But my extra-Christmas-Duties have made me realise more how much of a pain it is to have to work when most people are enjoying themselves. So I feel for those that are having to do it and do not want to. I truly know how it is and all I can say is “thank you for doing your bit”. Especially if you have done it despite having young kids. And especially if you have had to do it for 20+ years to cover for all those damned work-shy parents (joke!).

The ironic thing is that this year I will be working over Christmas. But I don’t mind as it is my choice. And I am doing so in warm sunshine, with a glass of wine, and in fact I can stop whenever I like. That is the joy of writing over doing stuff people need to be done now.

Merry Christmas everyone, especially to the unwilling workers.



1. twoknightsthenight - December 24, 2015

You left out the one thing I’m currently doing, being forced to use up my vacation before the end of the year. That’s usually an employee thing, not something that would likely happen to an independent consultant. That would make any upgrade, patch or similar at this time of year be turned over to someone else which always seems to be twice as much work.

Having done the consulting gig for years I can also attest you left out one other really fun thing, trying to fly home from an airport or on an airline that’s cancelling flights. One year I simply went elsewhere, which was a good decision as my destination airport was closed for over two days due to ice storms that claimed about 15 lives. My home at that time was in a southern part of the US that sees bad weather very rarely and the roads and the (much too many) overpasses ice up easily and the drivers are unable to handle it.

mwidlake - December 26, 2015

Good call. The “being forced to take time” issue is one I’ve come across a few times – once even as a contractor, as I was only allowed to do X days over the contract and yet they wanted me in every day. And I mean, every day…. The result, as you say, is vital tasks get moved to people lacking the experience to do them well. But then, I would prefer people to be made to take leave than have their leave removed – we all need time out.

My wife has often been unable to take all her leave and lost it, it happened to me a few years back. Your employer asks you to do this, do that, fly there and fix this…. no down time. Then come the end of the year HR get all upset that you have not taken your leave and so remove any unused days. So the reward for being a dedicated employee and saving their arse is to have your holidays cut. Lesson In Life – If you save the company’s bacon, ensure you get the benefit immediately. Not many people lie on their death bed saying “I wish I had been in the office more!”.

2. Neil Chandler - December 24, 2015

Writing blog posts instead of books. Is that the new prevarication of choice? 🙂

I took today off. It was worth it.

Merry Christmas.

mwidlake - December 24, 2015

Certainly is. Did some book work too. But had enough now 🙂 Where is the wine?

Merry Christmas to you.

3. Sabine - December 25, 2015

I’ve never met any work-shy parents.
I have been annoyed by parents that skipped our lunch break to get their work done because they had to pick up the kids before kindergarten was closing. I have met parents that worked during the night when they couldn’t complete their work during day time (kindergartens on strike, illnesses, you name it). Yes, it can be a hassle for their independent colleagues, as many parents are not in the office for 8 or 9 hours, and I can understand that this upsets some people. (I do remember the times when I was without kids very well, and I know I had very little sympathy…)
But as I said, I’ve never met any work-shy parents.

mwidlake - December 25, 2015

Sorry Sabine, no slur was intended – the phrase “Work shy parents” was said tongue in cheek, humourously.

Apart from that one line, there is no mention in the piece of parents working less hard, it is all about an expectation for non-parents to take on extra duties at certain times of year; year-after-year-after-year-after-year…

But I struggle to accept you have never met *any* workshy parents? None?!? I’ve met loads of workshy people, some had kids and some did not. Having kids does not seem to be a factor. I’ve know personally a woman who was a teacher who planned her pregnancies to maximise her maternity leave meshing with summer school holidays (ie ended just as she started maternity leave). I was amazed by her timing! Especially as she managed it twice. Another friend was insistent she came back to work before her company maternity leave ended (it exceeded statutory leave). People are people.

4. Friday Philosophy – Genial Greetings & Festive Fun | Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog - December 23, 2016

[…] at them. As I said this time last year, as I’ve never had kids I’ve ended up doing more than my fair share of holiday cover – but not anymore. So if you are one of those on duty over the next week or so, I hope the […]

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