Single people celebrate holidays too

This is really the first year I have noticed this but it's happened a couple times:

When scheduling meetings around the holidays (let's take Thanksgiving for example), people assume that they can schedule right up to the date. My guess is that these people are married and/or have kids at home and/or live near relatives. They may celebrate Thanksgiving at their own homes and then they're ready to get back to work. That's great for them. They obviously don't get the honor of experiencing Christmas spaghetti at my house. The opening of the sauce jar brings a sentimental tear to my eye. OK, I have only done this once but still.

For many single folks, especially ones that are located away from family (we relocate a large number of our new hires so we should be accustomed to this at Microsoft), the holidays will involve getting on a plane. You know, the same is true for small families that make the trek to "grandmas house" over the holidays. I don't know if anyone else experiences travel fatigue like I do but the idea of staying for 2 days, turning around and coming back isn't exactly met with enthusiasm. Plus, I have vacation time to burn at the end of the year.

As much as I understand peoples desire to get stuff done (the focus of some of my favorite people, in fact), I propose that when they are scheduling a meeting during this season (I only mention Thanksgiving and Christmas because those are the late-year holidays I have personal experience with), they not schedule them the week before or the week after the holiday in question. I have to say that I HATE the idea of calling into a meeting while I am on vacation. When I am unplugged, I am unplugged and a meeting can suck me back into work mode like you wouldn't believe...I'm one of those people that totally needs to disconnect to reap any benefits from it. Regularly scheduled meetings that people can miss (team meetings, etc.) are fine because missing them is OK, but unique meetings, please refrain.

I generally think about the time between Thanksgiving and the beginning of the new year as time to get organized and catch up. Also, since candidates are at home, it's a good time to reach those that may be looking for a new career move. That's what I'll be doing when I am not taking vacation time.

I guess I am just saying that the in-towners should remember that some of us aren't going to spend a solitary holiday so we can attend meetings and that the prospect of engaging on those meeting while on vacation is a big buzz kill. Yes, work needs to get done, but this isn't the most efficient time to do meeting-based work. So if it's not time-critical, perhaps the meetings could take place after the beginning of the year. I'm just proposing some awareness, not new rules.

That's all.

Comments (14)

  1. Bad_Brad says:

    This is the exact reason why I am the only one in my organization of 40+ people who does not have a pocket PC.  I also rarely take my laptop home with me, and I actively resist taking my laptop on vacation with me.

    Microsoft has enabled, or at least assisted in enabling, a lot of wonderful technologies to be brought to a lot of people.  There are, however, downsides to this, one of which is the fact that technology has blurred the line between personal time and work time.

    My policy is that when I am on vacation, I will leave my cell phone for my team but I do not want a call unless the fire department is on its way because the building is going up in an inferno.  And no, "someone called me with a question that I didn’t know the answer to" does not qualify as a building fire.

    Oh, and I should point out that many of us married folks have moved a long distance to be here at MS as well.  We like to travel home on holidays, and believe me, grandmas like to see their grandkids on holidays.

  2. HeatherLeigh says:

    Bad_Brad, that’s exactly why I don’t give out my cell phone number. And I phrase my out-of-office message in such a way that people know they should not call me for non-emergencies. I refer to the appropriate reason to call me as a "recruiting emergency"…see if you can figure out what one of those is! I’m not under the mistaken impression that I am so important that I need to be reached at any moment. I generally find that when someone gets an oof message from someone they just e-mailed, their issue suddenly becomes an emergency. I don’t set an oof if I am going to be out for one workday or less (yeah, they can all live without me for one day).

    Anyway, I think that people generally tend to want to be "on-call"; maybe they don’t want to miss something or they want to feel important. I’m not one of those people, for the most part.

    I recall taking my laptop with me on one Thanksgiving holiday. I got over that. Thw work is always still there when you get back. That’s one of great things about work…it’s very patient and will await your return : )

  3. Wine-Oh says:

    Amen Sister!

    I have a big project due in february. I have 1/2 my team out the week of thanksgiving and the week of christmas and new years. All because they saved it up. Dont yell at me when the project doesnt go on time because the resources were sipping mai-tai’s in cancun. I always stay around the holidays. Get so much done. Quick commute to work too! 🙂

  4. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, I think you missed my point. It wasn’t that people shouldn’t take time off during the holidays (hello…they are THE HOLIDAYS…they call them that for a reason) but that the people organizing the projects should consider this fact in scheduling meetings and setting deadlines.

    I’m on the side of the mai-tai sipping cancunians! I’d hardly say that someone like me is "saving up" vacation time. I took some vacation time during the year but do find that since hiring managers are often out of town at this time of year as well, and I need a dose of sunshine, it’s a great time to head south. Besides, the whole point of granting more vacation time based on tenure is to reward and retain people. If they start scheduling meetings during the times that people typically are spending with their families out of town, it kind of defeats the purpose.

    Also, many people use this time of year for vacations/trips because their kids are out of school.

    I’ve been encouraging my team to use all of their vacation time up. They deserve it!

  5. Wine-Oh says:

    My bad. I miss read it. Time for a new perscription or time to lay off the mai thai’s.

  6. Rosyna says:


    "They obviously don’t get the honor of experiencing Christmas spaghetti at my house. The opening of the sauce jar brings a sentimental tear to my eye."

    Makes a great out of context quote.

    Since I live alone and work from home, I can do my work from almost anywhere. Last year I was in Japan. My tooth fell out at 4am on Christmas Eve. So I spent Christmas day (a sunday) at a dentist getting it put back into my head. $375 well spent.

  7. tod hilton says:

    Heather, a buddy of mine and I have a saying that seems to come up quite frequently around work: "you’re lack of planning does not constitue an emergency on my part."

    I would venture to say that most of the people you’re talking about would fall into that category. Especially if they’re expecting a lot of work to get done over the holidays.

  8. HeatherLeigh says:

    Wine-Oh, that’s OK…we still love you. : ) I was flashing back to the grinch there for a second!

    Rosyna-one of my recurring nightmares is having a tooth fall out (people should not bother interpreting…I’ve already done it. It signified a perceived lack of control and I’ve pretty much had this dream my whole life). Sounds like that was not a fun Christmas, but some Christmas spaghetti would have been nice and soft ; )

    tod-yeah maybe. It’s hard to uncover the agenda. Sometimes I think it’s just enthusiasm for the proejct and the fact that they don’t think it through.

  9. Graham says:

    I have always taken my laptop on vacation and found the following scenario works well for me (and my spouse).

    I take about 20 minutes to get ready in the morning and it takes my wife about 60 minutes. No problem with the difference, as it gives me 40 minutes every day to check e-mail and respond to any "emergency". It also means I have little "catch up" to do when I return to the office.

    This seems to be a better use of my "extra" 40 minutes than watching Today or GMA.

  10. HeatherLeigh says:

    Graham…hmm, I knew there was something I was missing: a spouse that takes longer than I to get ready. : )

  11. Wine-Oh says:

    Aww shucks. Im going through this now with lack of availability of key stakeholders on a project the monday before turkey day. No one is around yet its a milestone and cant go forward without signoff. Very annoying.

  12. HeatherLeigh says:

    Sheesh, you can only do what you can do. Is the person that gave you the project aware of this? I’d be going  back to renoegotiate the timeline. I’m all about renegotiating the timeline when needed. : )

  13. Brian Tinkler says:

    Heather, you continue to have a great blog with excellent topics.  I haven’t posted here in over a year.  Some of your advice helped me land a position at MS, so thanks!

    Regarding this topic, it’s ultimately a matter of realizing that you control your time.  Think about how much you get paid (whatever that is).  When you think about doing something, is it worth that much?  If not, don’t do it or have someone else do it.  If it is worth that much, then you need to find time for it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work through the holidays, it just means you need to schedule it among your priorities (in the appropriate order) and communicate that to all vested parties.

    I’ve personally found that the process taught by David Allen (Getting Things Done, a.k.a., GTD) is amazing in helping get through things and prioritize.  It also helps you realize that time off (holidays or otherwise) mean you get time off.  Because you’re able to schedule everything during your available time, you don’t have to think for 1 second about anything during your unavailable time.  Now, mind you, I’m a type-A personality like you Heather, but David’s "mind like water" philosophy actually works very well.  In fact, you can check out his "GTD Fast" audio books from MSLibrary.  Non-MS employees should look for the book of GTD.  Very helpful.

    Good luck on enjoying the holidays without worrying about work!

  14. HeatherLeigh says:

    Hey Brian, great to see you back here! I think I’ll see if I can get that book on audio. It sounds like I could use it. I just downloaded "The Wisdom of Crowds" which someone recommended to me about a year ago…just getting around to it. I think audiobooks might be the way for a type-A to chip away at the list of business books they have made.

    Hope you are enjoying Microsoft so far! Thanks for the tip on the book!

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