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December 28, 2001
Enjoying the Holiday Lull
It'
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s much quieter and a lot slower at most American workplaces this week, and that has many employees looking forward to coming to work.

For them, coming to work this week means few interruptions, no deadlines, and a chance to get away from shopping malls, in-laws, and the craziness of the holiday season, the Washington Post reports.

"There's not a sound here. No phones going, no faxes, no conversations, no keys clacking," said Eileen Fitzpatrick, who works at a mortgage company. "You can get 10,000 times more stuff done than you usually do. I'm getting all ready for the new year and taking care of all those bits and pieces you tend to put aside."

Jan and Tom Morris, a couple who run a D.C.-based career counseling firm, could have given themselves the day off on Wednesday, the day after Christmas, but decided they would rather work.

"We're getting a lot done, and we're not bombarded with phone calls," Jan Morris told the Post.

The commute was a breeze because there were no crowds on the Metro, she added.

Plus, with no clients coming in, the couple opted for jeans instead of business clothes. Fresh from the holiday break, they had plenty of energy to finish last-minute projects and get a head start on some new ones.

Bill Sudow, a partner at a D.C. law firm, finished a legal brief in less than two hours with no one to bother him. "It's a relaxing time without a lot of interruptions, and you can finish things up," he said.

So are people who want to work this week by definition dangerously overstressed workaholics? Not necessarily, said Donald Wetmore, a nationally known time-management expert and head of the Productivity Institute in Stratford, Conn.

In fact, Wetmore said, getting more work done this week might be a good way to ease the crunch when the new year begins.

"A lot of people are taking advantage of this week," he said. "You can get a lot of work done, the phones are down, people aren't interrupting a lot. The one that I'm concerned with is the one on New Year's Eve who looks back at the week and says, 'Oh I missed another week with my family.'"

The key, Wetmore said, is balance.

"We get consumed with our work and it eats up the big chunk of our time," he told the newspaper. People who want to achieve sustained success, he added, "have to have balance first."

Hillary Smith found that balance. Her mother and stepfather returned to Florida on Tuesday. So going into her Alexandria, Va., office, where she is a certification education manager for the National Affordable Housing Management Association, fit her personal plans.

On Wednsday, Smith, 23, was sitting in her small fifth-floor office, with only her plants for company, grading examinations taken by housing and real estate executives. "It's nice and quiet," she said. "The phone has only rung once so far."

Still, she said, coming to the office was not exactly a choice. "I have only been here four months," she said, "so I am not yet entitled to any vacation."

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