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Published: Friday, 6/30/2006

Workplaces struggle to light fuse for preholiday productivity

BY MARY-BETH McLAUGHLIN
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The Fourth of July isn t until Tuesday, but it could be tough to find many people in their offices the day before.

And if they are there, except at stores, good luck getting much work out of them, said John Challenger, chairman of an outplacement consulting firm based in Chicago.

The chances are high that workers will not be very productive on Monday, so companies have to ask themselves if they are going to make enough money to offset the costs associated with normal daily operations, he said.

Mark Luetke, president of Funk Luetke Skunda Marketing Inc. in Toledo, said the marketing and advertising firm had planned to be open on July 3, but a survey found very few clients planned to be in their offices that day.

And we found that even though many of them professed to be open, all of our contact people were off ... so we made a judgment call to not be open, he said.

A survey by Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc. of 100 human resource executives found 56 percent said they would have normal office hours on Monday, citing the global nature of their businesses.

But it also found many admit-ting workers schedule it as a vacation day.

Nearly a third of those surveyed said they would be closed, 5 percent said they would be open but would shut their doors early, and 2 percent will have skeleton crews only.

Having a Tuesday off is so much less valuable to someone than offering them the perk of a four-day weekend, especially for a getaway weekend in the summer, Mr. Challenger said.

Mr. Luetke, the Toledo businessman, said he doesn t expect today will be very productive at area offices, predicting business people will leave at noon to take advantage of the long weekend.

As a result, employees of Funk Luetke have been asked to take care of a necessary task this afternoon: cleaning out e-mails and other electronic files.

It s not as intense as client work so they can still socialize a little bit, but it s a way to make the day productive, Mr. Luetke said.

Mr. Challenger, the consultant, said other ways to make today and Monday at least somewhat productive while keeping up employee morale include:

• Drop the dress code and invite workers to wear shorts, sandals, and Hawaiian shirts.

• Put a couple of big trash bins in the middle of the office and encourage workers to clean out overstuffed file cabinets and desk drawers.

• Encourage employees to get work done in the morning and then treat them to pizza and beverages for lunch and an earlier-than-usual quitting time.

Contact Mary-Beth McLaughlin at mmclaughlin@theblade.com or 419-724-6199.



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