30 December 2011

They work while we jol

December time is vacation time, the season to be jolly and get some of that hard-earned R & R. However not everyone is on holiday while you are out partying.


December time is vacation time, the season to be jolly and get some of that hard-earned R & R. However not everyone is on holiday while you are out partying; some people work throughout the festive season and many still sacrifice their weekends so that you can have that well deserved shopping spree.

Health24 took a look at some of the jobs that require people to work while we are out enjoying ourselves. These are jobs where either by choice or bad luck, someone has to work the graveyard shift.


The dreaded minimum-wage and maximum-stress job is one underappreciated occupation. Waiters and waitresses around the world work long shifts carrying heavy plates of food for customers who sometimes don’t realise they are giving up their Christmas Eve to bring the meal you ordered.

They don’t just work on Christmas; they work on New Year’s Day, public holidays and most weekends. Yes they do get days off, but who wants the odd Wednesday off when you can have that wonderfully sought-after Saturday. And that 1.5 pay rate won’t make it any better when you get paid around R9 an hour. Also let’s face it, there are many misers out there who think a generous tip is R5 even when the waiter provided excellent service.

Shop assistants

Getting the night shift off when you work at a convenience store is a mission from hell. Negotiations need to take place: if you want Christmas night off be prepared to sacrifice New Year’s Eve or vice versa. Not to mention weekend shifts and public holidays.

Some shop assistant work doubles because their co-workers magically contracted some disease that renders them paraplegic, from 24th to 26th of December.

And it’s not only your local superette workers that face this annual war. Movie rental places generally stay open, as do take-away food outlets, clothing and general stores (although they do close earlier) and arcade .


Yes, the poor bartender who has to look after the lonely single people who seek solace at the local pub, bar or night club. Bartenders often work extremely long shifts that can go well into the early hours of the morning.

Although the tips can pile up, it can’t beat going out with friends on New Year’s Eve.

Living vicariously through the people the bartender is serving, is not easy and not very pleasant either. It can arouse jealousy and bitterness if the bartender has worked the past four 31st Decembers. 


Breaking news never ends and journalists need to be around to report it. The wonderful world of journalism does have its off moments like working the graveyard shift, patiently waiting for the phone to ring.

Unfortunately it’s not every Christmas a president gets murdered or a huge tsunami hits a country. So the nights can get long, boring and sleepy. Good thing coffee is always around.

Journalists are often on call and have a pen and notepad ready just in case. Also depending on which field you work in, it could be a little tougher. Working at a radio station means the news needs to be on the hour every hour, so no shortcuts unfortunately and the news must be up-to-date as well as accurate.

Working in print media means more content is needed this time of year. Together with skeletal staff and a killer deadline, working at a newspaper screams overstressed, overworked and underpaid. Magazines often have to push two issues in one month which means double the workload.

Online journos have the same issues. Keeping the news fresh and up-to-date is essential and being on call is also a necessity. Not to mention monitoring the often awful responses people post on the comment section of the articles.

There is a joke journalists use when responding to questions about their working hours. The answer being ‘ATFT’, meaning ‘all the freaking time’.


Police are on duty every single day of the year (nights included) to serve and protect. Police need to be on duty in case of break-ins, rape, domestic abuse calls and kidnappings.

Police are also out and about on the roads to make sure that there are no drunk drivers – especially this time of year, when road accidents are at their peak.

Keeping the streets safe is another reason why police work on days we are out partying. Some people’s version of having fun includes various unethical and unlawful acts and the crime busters need to be ready to kick into action.

Police workers definitely have a schedule that does not revolve around being home for the festivities but rather on call to protect those who are.

Emergency medical personnel

Some of the busiest workers in the world work in a hospital’s trauma unit. These guys get calls every single day at anytime. Road accidents, home accidents, gunshot wounds, etc. are common this time of year. Emergency medical units are on call and ready to save the lives of those who may have partied a little too hard.

Paramedics are essential on these days as road accidents are frequent and trauma surgeons often remain at the hospital throughout the night. Nurses also need to be available, not only to assist in surgery but to look after the patients post-surgery.

Other doctors remain on call in-case of a serious emergency like a mass road accident.

Call centre operator

Last but not least, the customer service call line is available 24/7, 365 days a year. But these hotlines aren’t computerised – people actually answer them.

Places like child hotline are extremely important, but there are some questionable “hotlines”; for example, take a look at your slab of chocolate. Do you see a customer service number? These poor people are working at 2:00 am just in case you have a complaint about the chocolate you bought.

Call centre operators have one of the most stressful jobs in the world. They have to deal with angry, rude people and pranksters

Keep in mind that just because you are having a blast this festive season, doesn’t mean that everyone is. Many people out there are working hard to earn a salary at the cost of Christmas lunch with family.

Next time you see the shop assistant when you run to get a bottle of milk, say happy holidays with a smile.

(Health 24, Kyle Boshoff, December 2010)

Read more:

5 weird jobs

5 dangerous jobs


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