Put down the eggnog (and any other beverage prone to disrupt your attention, memory and sense of responsibility).

Your company IT administrator will thank you in the morning.

According to a new survey from Lexington, Mass.-based Ipswitch, a provider of software tools for IT teams, more than half of IT professionals have visions of data loss dancing in their heads during the winter holiday season.

A Very Scary Christmas

IT pros have bigger worries than extra calories and morning after hangovers: They worry their network will suffer a data breach at the hands of a careless reveler. In technical terms, it's the making of "A Nightmare Before Christmas," explained Michael Hack, senior vice president of EMEA Operations at Ipswitch.

“Time and again throughout the festivities, IT professionals will be called upon to deal with the potential consequences of a device accidently falling into the wrong hands,” he warned in a company statement. “In such scenarios, information security is the primary concern."

That's why companies should have effective security measures in place, "so that even if an employee’s laptop or phone is lost or stolen, there’s not sensitive data or apps available to anyone in possession of the device,” he added.

There, Here and Everywhere?

To be fair, the Ipswitch 2015 “Happy Holidays?” online survey only reflects the views of 165 IT professionals, all of them from the United Kingdom. It found:

  • More than a third of IT professionals in the UK (36 percent) have had an IT user report the loss of a device holding company data following holiday celebrations in a pub, restaurant or party
  • Nearly one-in-five (19 percent) have had to manage the fallout that results from a user leaving their phone, tablet or laptop in the back of a taxi or on public transport during the holiday season
  • More than half of the IT professionals surveyed (57 percent) are worried their network could suffer a data breach at the hands of a careless celebration this year
  • And that means the work doesn't stop for many IT pros: 27 percent will be on call or working on Christmas Eve, 10 percent will be on call on Christmas Day and 13 percent expect to work on New Year’s Eve

Are Americans as careless as their UK counterparts? Consider this: SquareTrade, a San Francisco-based company that sells protection plans for electronic devices, found smartphones, laptops, tablets and cameras are "commonly in danger" during the holiday season.

Accidents frequently happen while traveling, (37 percent of accidents), shopping (32 percent), cooking (22 percent) and decorating (9 percent). It warns users to "Be careful of accidental device dunks into the holiday eggnog," "Keep your gadgets in your pockets while drinking" and "Keep your electronics off the dance floor."

There was something else about keeping them "away from ovens," but you get the point.

Carelessness doesn't seem to be restricted to a specific geography.

Sad, Stressed, Distracted

"During the Christmas period, festive spirits are running high and some employees’ judgment around data protection may be slightly more lax than usual. Companies can therefore be at higher risk of data breaches as employees start saving copyrighted material or downloading infected material onto their network," explained Audrey McNeil, a security data analyst at Denver-based Risk Based Security.

The most wonderful time of year is also a prime time for stress and sadness: Data from the American Psychological Association shows that 38 percent of people claim the holidays increase their stress levels, while another 26 percent feel sad or lonely. Who really cares about that company smartphone and all the data it contains at a time like this?

Working 24/7

All this holiday angst is exacerbated by the demands of the mobile enterprise: Businesses may be closed for Christmas, but employees often continue to work.

Some 26 percent of those who responded to the Ipswitch survey expect up to half of their company's employees to work remotely during the holidays.

That typically generates a variety of calls for help from inexperienced remote workers struggling with malfunctioning laptops (39 percent), problems accessing the network remotely (36 percent), poor application performance (28 percent) and security related issues (21 percent).

"User mishaps at this time of year represent a significant risk to the business, placing additional unwelcome demands on the IT team who have to fix the problem," Hack noted.

The best gift businesses can give their IT teams is a little support. Remind users of security policies and procedures "so that, should untoward events occur, the enterprise is not compromised."

Title image by Patrick Schöpflin