Many employers say inauguration now, work later

By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY

Employers are bracing for a major slowdown as employees take time off work to scroll the Internet, watch TV news and otherwise participate in Inauguration Day events.

But because of the special historic significance of Barack Obama’s swearing-in, some employers accept that Tuesday won’t be business as usual. Internet service provider Verizon is urging Washington, D.C., businesses to let employees work from home, while other businesses are closing down operations or throwing all-day parties — complete with flat-screen TVs so employees and others don’t miss any of the festivities.

About 5% of businesses are closing altogether, according to the Society for Human Resource Management. That is more than those that close on Election Day and about the same as those closed the day before Thanksgiving.

How some workplaces will mark Tuesday:

• is closing down operations and hosting a party at its headquarters from 7 a.m. until 2 p.m. that will include prizes, surprises and an Inauguration Day-themed lunch. “We wanted it to be interactive for employees and local customers,” says Mitch Goldstone, president and CEO of the Irvine, Calif.-based company. “This is almost going to be like a national holiday. We’re closing down regular business so everyone can watch. We wanted to just have a big party. This is so much more important than productivity.”

•Potomac Ridge Behavioral Health, a network of behavioral health facilities in the Maryland suburbs, plans to have on-site television coverage of the inauguration available for employees. It will also offer free lunches and provide snacks for employees watching the ceremony.

•At DKC, a public relations agency based in New York, management will set up inauguration-watching parties in conference rooms, with drinks and snacks provided. Employees will set aside work for a few hours to watch the events.

Productivity experts say giving employees time to watch or party on Inauguration Day may do more to boost productivity by instilling enthusiasm in workplaces battered by layoffs and job insecurity.

“Watching the inauguration as a work team has the potential to enhance morale,” says Karissa Thacker, a workplace psychologist and consultant. “When morale goes up, so does productivity.”

Contributing: Jason Paul

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