Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Last Day of Work Before Christmas

Today is The Last Day of Work Before Christmas.

The Last Day of Work Before Christmas is always a somewhat confused time. On the one hand, there are things that must get accomplished, especially in light of the fact that many people take the week after Christmas off, so signature and approvals will not be available before the end of the year. It's a madhouse of scurrying, writing, cajoling and whining to get things accomplished either now- or next year.

On the other hand, there is a sense that it is almost a day of non-work. Personnel on site are always about 40% of what is normally there, so many things simply can't get done. There's almost a sense of a holiday at work as well, the feeling that the clock is slowly ticking down to freedom. People take longer than they usually do to stop and drop off paperwork to chat for a few minutes with gloating or despairing depending on how much time they are taking off. Individually decisions are made about how much work actually can get accomplished by the end of the year: by 12 PM, people starting moving things off of their lists with the thought "I can do it next week when no-one is here" or "I can do it next year".

The one almost universal tradition - almost everywhere I've worked - starts around 2 PM or so, when people start checking their computers for the ever-hoped for "Let's close early" e-mail. In some places it's merely a periodic check; in others, work almost slows to nothing as individuals cluster like quail, wondering if it will happen or when.

But inevitably something happens - the "get out of work early" message or simply the winding down of people's day. By the time the end of the day rolls around, the workplace is silent - not just the silence of people being absent, but the more profound silence of people dropping their work cares and sorrows on the way out the door.

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