Many travelled for holidays but a good number just had to work

Holidaymakers at Pirates Public Beach, Mombasa County. December 25, 2021. [Kelvin Karani, Standard]

Alongside those that did not travel due to flight, cancellations are those who decided work was more important than travelling. Some just had too much pending work to think of holidays.

With a new variant of Covid-19, many that had prepared themselves for travel were unable to do so. NBC reported that almost 5,000 flights were cancelled across the world over the Christmas weekend as holiday travel plans were brought to a halt amid the rapidly spreading of the Omicron variant.

Many more were cancelled on Monday, December 27. But for a good number of those that decided to stay put at work, it was a good decision.

“I received my assignments late because I had exams back in school. That contributed to my working over the holidays,” says Meresiah Aloo, a city-based journalist.

She would have travelled for the festivities had she not had so much to do. However, she admits, it would have made little difference.

"I would rather take a holiday. But there is a lot of time to do the assignments now,” she says. “I would be lazing around with my family back at home or setting my new year’s resolutions.”

For her, working through the festivities has been a moment of “no rush, no disruptions, just taking it easy while you vibe with the holiday”.

She is taking longer to complete assignments, she admits, and the pressure of delivering is not as much as it would have been during normal workdays in the past.

Winfred Mwihaki, who works in a top hotel, says she is still working; business is at its best and breaking is not possible.

"Hotel business during holidays peaks. It has peaked as was expected. Room bookings, hotel reservations, and the bars have had many people coming in their numbers to celebrate Christmas.”

She is a little unhappy that the rest of the family is home and there is little she could do about it.

“I feel a little sad that everyone else is home except me, but they understand my work schedule. I will be going home for the New Year,” she says.

Daniel Mbugua’s experience of working from home at the height of the pandemic last year has helped him cope quite well. He is working well into the Yuletide season, albeit with the family next door.

“It has been seamless because of the earlier experience I had working from home,” he says. "I am well into the new normal. Data is affordable and power is available in the village, although Kenya Power (and Lighting Company) needs to do more. Overall, work continues.”

But then how easy is it to work in the vicinity of family members who crave your attention?

“I do it early morning and late afternoon so that the rest of the time I have time with family and friends,” Mbugua says. “When everyone is up and about, I pause. I avoid complaints. When inevitable, they understand. Sometimes, I need to quickly reply to an email or answer a short phone call. January is here and we need money.”

Past January blues have seen many people opt to continue working. But others are holed up at their workplaces due to an inevitable workload. Rosemary Wairimu, who has not earned herself a break, calls it “boring”.

It is hard to make estimates of how many people continue to work during the festivities. The nature of work also greatly differs, with some essential jobs not anticipating breaks. But as Christmas drew nearer, bus terminals were teeming with Kenyans who braved rapidly rising bus fares to visit their families in the countryside.

For distances such as Nairobi to Nyeri, a 160-kilometre journey in which the normal fares range between Sh300 and Sh400, matatus charged up to Sh900. A driver who spoke to this writer said that two days before Christmas, he had ferried passengers from Nairobi to Eldoret at Sh3,000 per passenger, six times the normal fare.

And while the fare hikes alone were not a factor enough to prevent people from staying put in their city houses and workplaces, some jobs required that a section of the workers remained in their offices. The only relief they had was organising themselves in shifts; one to cover the Christmas period while the other is in for The New Year.

American site limaohio.com reported that the US Bureau of Labour Statistics report showed that more than a million Americans worked on Christmas Day.

“Emergency responders, hospital workers, dispatchers and restaurant and retail employees will be up early not to watch their children open presents or exchange gifts with spouses, but to get ready for work,” the website noted.

“Aside from law enforcement, firefighters and healthcare workers, there were plenty of employees in the service industries punching their time cards Saturday so that families could comfortably get together.”

And as some office people remained out to work over Christmas, many other service providers did not have the luxury of a holiday either. They hang around to serve those who themselves have not been very eager or were not given chance, to depart for the holidays.

Mbugua says working over the festivities is not a complicated affair and just needs good planning.

“One needs to plan. For instance, make sure all required files are already uploaded to the cloud and you have access to mobile devices. Also, before breaking for holiday, have a brief meeting with team members to align on the deliverables. That way, you will have a quick turnaround time for any task during the holidays hence save time for self,” he says.

Again, he says, it is unlikely that someone working over a holiday will have as much to handle as one working the normal working days.

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