- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 29, 2006

This Independence Day, many private-sector employees in the Washington area will have additional cause for celebration: a four-day weekend.

Because Independence Day falls on a Tuesday, many local offices have made Monday a paid holiday as well.

Employees of Corporate Executive Board, a D.C. company that assists corporate managers, will be off both days, said Melody Jones, the chief human resources officer.

The company gives nine paid holidays per year, Ms. Jones said. After accounting for traditional paid holidays such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, Presidents Day and the Fourth of July, the company allocates the remaining days.

“We rearrange two or three of [the remaining paid holidays] to try to be advantageous to the employees,” Ms. Jones said.

Inspired Yoga will close its two D.C. studios Monday and Tuesday for the benefit of its teachers, director Kyra Anastasia Sudofsky said. Because the instructors are paid contractors, they do not receive paid holidays.

“We actually usually stay open, but I wanted our teachers to have a little bit longer of a break so they could take a longer weekend,” Ms. Sudofsky said. “They’re thrilled.”

Employees at Fannie Mae’s corporate headquarters, also in the District, will have paid holidays Monday and Tuesday.

“It will be a holiday for our employees in recognition of their dedication and hard work as the company makes progress toward its restatement [of past earnings] this year,” said Janice Walker, vice president of news and public affairs at the nation’s largest mortgage financier.

Chevy Chase and other banks will remain open Monday, but the New York Stock Exchange will close its trading floor at 1 p.m.

Some employees in the public sector also will receive an extra day off. Federal employees must work, with no liberal leave policy, the Office of Personnel Management said. Maryland and D.C. employees must work as well, but Gov. Timothy M. Kaine declared Monday a paid holiday for all Virginia state employees.

“It tracks with what a large segment of the private sector does when holiday weekends fall the way this one does,” said Kevin Hall, press secretary for the governor.

Because the holiday depended on approval of the state budget for the fiscal year beginning Saturday, the governor announced the schedule only recently, Mr. Hall said.

“Many [state employees] had already made plans and only because we waited longer than perhaps usual to announce the decision, I think many had resolved just to use a vacation day. Now they won’t have to.”

A nationwide survey of 100 human resource executives found that one in four companies would give employees a four-day weekend. The survey, which was conducted by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., an outplacement consulting firm based in Chicago, also found that 56 percent of respondents would observe normal business hours Monday.

Employers said they do not think the four-day weekend will hurt productivity and might even prove beneficial. Lockheed Martin corporate spokesman Tom Greer said employees of the company’s Bethesda headquarters likely will improve productivity as a result.

“We believe that vacations and holidays … promote greater productivity through improved morale and health, and that’s the philosophy we use in determining the number of [vacation] days we have on an annual basis,” Mr. Greer said.

The use of long weekends generally hurts productivity but may be necessary this Independence Day, said John A. Challenger, chief executive officer of Challenger, Gray & Christmas.

“We are finding more and more studies are showing that we’re losing productivity in the long run by our short-term focus on long weekends,” Mr. Challenger said. “More and more people are substituting their week- or two-week-long vacation or dropping their vacations to take three- and four-day weekends.”

However, for those who do have to work July 3, Mr. Challenger said it may be one of the year’s least productive days, holding rank with Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

“Those who were not quick enough to request the day off may be less productive that day, seeing it as a day to ‘take it easy,’ ” Mr. Challenger said. He suggested that employers outside of the retail industry suspend operations until Wednesday.

“The extra day off would not only be a major boost for morale and employee energy, but the cost of opening the doors on Monday may be greater than if companies remained closed,” Mr. Challenger said.

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