- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Many area offices will remain eerily quiet the rest of the week as employees take advantage of the midweek national holiday.

Local employers say they are closing up only today to celebrate the Fourth of July, but many workers are expected to take the rest of the week off.

John Challenger, chief executive officer of Chicago outplacement consulting firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said many offices will be working with a “skeleton staff.”

With so many people out of the office, a small amount of workers can get hit with an extra amount of work or simply unproductive days, Mr. Challenger said.

“Unless the business is slow, there is a lot of work that lands in other people’s laps,” he said.

About 600,000 people in the Washington area are taking some sort of Fourth of July vacation, said John Townsend, manager of public and government affairs of AAA Mid-Atlantic.

While a midweek holiday, as opposed to a Monday or Friday holiday, at first glance appears to hurt the chance of a long weekend, it actually gives employees a chance to enjoy an extra-long weekend, Mr. Challenger said.

“More and more workers are putting a high priority on long weekends,” he said.

Some workers have chosen to take the entire week off, since four vacation days can facilitate time off as long as nine days, he said.

Despite the reduced staffing, most businesses will be open tomorrow and Friday.

All federal agencies are following the government calendar, which dictates that they operate normal business hours the two days.

Representatives from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Federal Highway Administration said they have not experienced problems with too many employees requesting days off.

Many private businesses have elected to open as normal after the holiday as well.

McLean mortgage giant Freddie Mac will operate normally tomorrow and Friday, as will McLean credit card company Capital One.

Michelle Stewart, an administrative secretary for D.C. law firm Arnold & Porter, said most of the law firm’s staff would be in the office both days.

Although managers say their offices are open, phone calls to many businesses have gone unanswered, some since Monday. And e-mail traffic from businesses and organizations has slowed considerably.

Mr. Challenger partially attributed the exodus of workers to Independence Day being a summer holiday.

“If New Year’s or Christmas both fell on a Wednesday, people would feel like they’d been shortchanged,” he said. “But in the middle of summer, people want to take a vacation and are much more excited about the idea.”

Mr. Challenger said that while businesses like restaurants and hotels will be at their busiest, others may view the week as a slow period.

“With Congress out of session, it gives people an open invitation to take a week off,” he said.

Mr. Townsend said rush-hour trafficthis week has been lower than almost any other time of the year.

“It’s like a ghost town.”