It’s Christmas Day and amidst the running tots and stress-inducing in-laws, you sneak away for a few moments to… well, check up on work. Nothing too extensive, probably: You draft a few emails, check the progress of some projects and maybe send a few text messages

It used to be that unless there was an emergency or you worked at certain kinds of jobs – at an airline perhaps, or a Chinese restaurant – big holidays like Christmas meant you were off the hook for work. But in today’s 24 x 7, always-connected world, many digital workers can’t seem to tear themselves away from work even for one day. Whether or not they’re really needed.

I am guilty of this very pathology, and odds are, you are too. 

Who Was Working?

I put the question of working on Christmas to Twitter, and found plenty of kindred spirits – especially among writers. LA Weekly Web editor Jake Swearingen wrote “[b]ecause dipping Internet traffic means you gotta hustle up PVs [page views] even more than usual.”

Declan Skews, a writer in the UK, tweeted some truth about our 24-hour news cycle: “The flow of information never stops. It’s easy to fall behind if I don’t read a lot everyday (and write at least a little bit).”  

Fredric Paul, ReadWrite’s own managing editor, admitted to checking his email, and so did Jenn Sheppard, the publisher at the nonprofit Florida Trail Riders. Sarah Bennett, who runs the hyperlocal news site Long Beach Post, wrote that if she doesn’t check her email and “write the stories, no one will!”  

It isn’t just writer types: Alex Clote, the co-founder of Cloze, a start-up filtering your electronic communications, wrote he “carved out an hour to catch up after Santa came” because “even on a holiday there are responsibilities.”

What Were They Doing?

Working on the holidays has become so common, business intranet service Bitrix24 found 17% of its users (which service employees from companies from like Xerox and Toshiba to Volkswagen and Vogue Magazine) checked in or did some light work on Christmas Day (and 12% did so on Christmas Eve).

According to Bitrix24, holiday working tasks broke down this way: 47% sent instant messages, 11% shared documents and 9% engaged in “task tracking.” Owners of mobile devices were more active than the average Christmas worker, with Android users beating out iPhone users by a small margin: 21% of Android users clocked in some light Christmas work, compared to 19% of Apple faithful.  

Knowledge workers clocking in over the Holidays were led by North Americans: 22% of users tracked by Bitrix24 were in the United States, 20% in Canada, and 17% of our cultural cousins in the United Kingdom did too. Only 6% of Italians bothered checking their emails.

Why Were They Working?

The big question, of course, is why are so many folks logging in when they’re supposed to be logged off?

For some people, the answer is that they had no choice. Something truly had to be done that day. For many others, though, work might be an escape from too much family togetherness. And for various reasons, some workers might not celebrate the day or have anything better to do. But the biggest reason is that it’s become so darn easy to work on holidays and other supposed personal time. Given our smartphones and mobile devices, we can work almost anywhere, any time.

For me, as a writer covering the intersection of technology and society, I can’t just shut off that part of my brain just because it is a holiday. Besides, I actually like working, and given the numbers it’s clear that many others feel the same way

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.