Shift workers guide to pulling off a cracking Christmas

Shift workers guide to pulling off a cracking Christmas

Being a shift worker does have its advantages; convenience, overtime, flexibility to name but a few, but during the Christmas holiday period when there is so much personal stuff to do and so many places to be, there are bound to be times when you can’t help but question your career decisions. 

Current stats show that over 4 million people are employed as shift workers in the UK right now. Once upon a time, it was only those working within the essential services who would be expected to work over the Christmas holidays, but now with our ever increasing expectations of 24/7 access to services both necessary and frivolous, many of the 4 million people employed as shift workers in the UK will find themselves working this Christmas.

You may be the type of person who volunteers to work Christmas day to escape the prospect of spending time with your belligerent great Aunt Mildred but for many, the Christmas rota release feels like a cruel shift roulette, you just know that while everyone else is eating mince pies and candy canes, you will be working what feels like the longest shift ever on at least one of the important days. 

Whether you have volunteered or drawn the short straw, the struggle is real, trying to have a festive Christmas of your own while you are working shifts is no easy task, but there are ways to make it not only a little easier but downright spectacular. 

Top tips for pulling off a 2019 Christmas cracker when you work shifts. 

Christmas Negotiations

Before you resign yourself to your shift working fate you have nothing else to lose, you may as well do what you can to get out of it first. 

Can you swap shifts? I know that pretty much every shift working parent will be trying to implore those who don’t have children to swap shifts with them but that doesn’t mean you stand no chance. For the best chances of shift swapping success, you need to offer something highly prized in return, perhaps offering to take the New Year’s Eve and New Years’ Day shifts are the key to success. If you are going to be home with the children anyway then saving someone from the hangover shift could be your best bet. 

If you are struggling to find someone to cover your whole shift it may be possible to split the shifts up so you both get some time at home instead. Ask a co-worker to cover the early part of your shift on Christmas morning and offer to cover New Year’s morning or Boxing morning in exchange. 

Christmas Kids

Being at work sucks more when you know that your children want nothing more than for you to be home with them. Those little munchkins really know which heartstrings to tug but with a little foresight and planning you may just be able to distract them long enough, so the time speeds on by and you are home before they know it. 

  • Harness the power of technology and arrange to video call home when you are on your break so you can still watch the kids open their gifts. 
  • Hunt the Fallen Bells – Hide little jingle bells around the house and garden. Kids will spend a fair amount of time hunting for the bells that fell off Santa’s sleigh. 
  • Pre-record a short video message for your little ones to watch, reassure them that you will be home soon and give them some exciting tasks to do to pass the time such as; 
  • Take Christmas breakfast bread to the ducks at the park. 
  • Find real holly sprigs to decorate the Christmas table. 
  • Make space for your new gifts in your bedroom.
  • Call or visit family members.

Christmas Gifts

Be the bearer of a fab gift even when you’re not there to see them open it. Virginia Hayward supply and deliver beautifully perfect hampers to suit pretty much every budget. 

If you are struggling to find time for Christmas shopping around your shifts, try Amazon’s last minute Christmas deals event that runs between 9th and 22nd December.  

Christmas Dinner

A slow cooker is a shift worker’s dream at any time of the year but at Christmas it really is a lifesaver. Whatever your Christmas dinner will be, there is a way to cook it in a slow cooker that will ensure you can walk in after a long shift to find the lion’s share of your Christmas dinner ready to serve and eat. Here are a couple of must try Christmas slow cooker recipes to get you started

Slow cooker turkey
Slow Cooker ham.
Christmas recipes  

If you don’t yet have a slow cooker, HotUKDeals will help you to find the best priced slow cooker available right now. As of today, there is one at the bargain price of just £12.74 from Robert Dyas. A slow cooker is for life, not just for Christmas so this is an investment worth making.

Christmas Cheer

Try to avoid social media, the last thing you need is to see your friends open gifts and munch on mince pies, it will only serve to make you wish you were anywhere but at work, so a social amnesty for the duration of your shift is highly advised. 

Be the happiest most social Christmas Elf possible. How you feel works in direct correlation to how you act so if you make the extra effort to be festive and cheerful you can’t help but feel happy.

Christmas Travel

Take extra consideration for travelling to and from work. Public transport is likely to be disrupted so have a solid plan in mind well ahead of time as well as a plan B, C, D… you get the idea.

Consider a carpool with your fellow Christmas workers. You are all in the same boat so if you can do a round robin pick-up you can Christmas carpool karaoke your way in to work and collectively get in the Christmas spirit.

Christmas On-hold

If all else fails consider delaying Christmas entirely until after Boxing Day, not so easy if you have kids I know, but if you are child-free then this is a fab option.

This does of course come with the added bonus of buying your Christmas gifts in the Boxing Day or January sales so if you do go for this option then these links will come in handy. 

Be ready to grab a bargain in the January sales with this handy guide to checking if you are getting a good deal from Which.  

Take the guess work out of sales shopping and let PriceSpy do the hard work for you by comparing prices and notifying you when items on your wish list hit a price worth paying. 

Christmas Future

If you are struggling to balance your work and your home commitments, you may need to consider flexible working solutions to enable you to have the best of both worlds. With Christmas now only a short time away, it may be too late to swap your shift, book time off or request a flexible working pattern for this year but you can get ahead and start making changes to your working pattern now in time for next year. 

If you have 26 weeks consecutive service with an employer, you have the right to request a change to your working pattern and for that request to be seriously considered by your employer. 

To request a flexible working solution, you will need to submit a request and this request needs to

  • Be in writing.
  • Be dated.
  • Explain the change you would like to make to your working pattern. See suggestions below.
  • Explain when you would like the change to start.
  • Explain what effect the change might have on the business, if any.
  • Explain how such effects could be dealt with
  • State that it is a statutory request.
  • State if you have made a request previously and if so when.

The flexible solutions that will work in your favour at Christmas are;

Term-time working

Term-time working allows employees to work their agreed contractual hours over term times only. Term-time working could be applicable to full or part-time staff. Holidays are usually taken in school holiday periods only. 

V time 

V time is voluntary reduced working time. It is where a voluntary and temporary dip in hours is requested – usually to accommodate a particular period of time where more time will be required for non-work-related activities. 

Other types of flexible working solutions that seem to work well for many people are;

Part-time working

Part-time work is the most common type of flexible working. The government’s definition of a part-time worker is someone who works fewer than 30 hours per week. 


After part-time working, flexitime is a very common form of flexible working. It allows employees to vary their start and finish times. 

Job sharing 

Job sharing is much more common now. Two people share responsibilities, pay and all the other benefits of a full-time job. 

Compressed hours

Compressed hours are when the week’s work is compressed into a shorter time span. So, for example, you may currently work 40 hours over five days. This could be compressed into four days of 10 hours or three and a half days of 11 or 12 hours per day.

Annual hours 

In some roles annualised hours are a possibility. In quiet times the employee works less time and then makes up the time when it is very busy. As some jobs have busy periods (at the end of the financial year, pre-Christmas, etc), it can help with the peaks and troughs of the workload. 

It is important to know that while you have the right to ask and that your request has to be seriously considered, your employer does not necessarily have to agree, still, it’s worth a shot!  

If you have any shift working top tips for Christmas and beyond, I would love to hear them and add them to this list for all to see. You can email me your tips and suggestions at