Independence Day is a highlight of the summer for many Americans. The holiday is traditionally celebrated with barbecues and fireworks, and is one of the busiest travel days of the year. Unfortunately, July 4 falls on a Wednesday this year; whereas in other years, employees typically enjoy three-day or four-day weekends, this year most are just getting one day off in the middle of the week. Most national holidays in the US, like Presidents’ Day or Memorial Day, are observed on a Monday so as to create a three-day weekend, but the Fourth of July is always celebrated on July 4.
This has led to some extra stress and logistical challenges for managers this week, as they have had to juggle numerous requests for additional vacation days from employees trying to carve out a longer holiday for themselves: A small survey from Office Pulse found that most employees were planning to take at least one extra day off and that one in five managers were overwhelmed by the amount of vacation requests they were getting. Meanwhile, among those employees who were not taking extra days off, 19 percent said they would be “extra tired” or “hungover” when they returned to work on Thursday—among Millennials, 30 percent.
(Of course, not all US employers offer paid vacation, so many employees can’t afford to take additional time off at all.)
On the positive side, those who are able to make a five-day weekend out of the holiday (or even take the whole week off) have more time to travel. Whether or not they do so depends partly on the economy: The last time the fourth fell on a Wednesday, in 2012, travel trends were stagnant, whereas they set a record the time before that, in 2007. This year, AAA expects the number of Independence Day travelers to set a record again, predicting that 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this holiday.
Employees who don’t take a long holiday may find that their Independence Day is not as fun or relaxing as they’d like it to be; it’s harder to disconnect from work, after all, when you were just there yesterday and have to go back again in the morning. Many Americans neglect to take proper vacations, and when they do, they have a tendency to check in with work. For workers who have a hard time unplugging and unwinding to begin with, a one-day holiday may not be especially restful.
To solve the problem of one-day holidays, Rachelle Hampton suggests at Slate that Americans adopt the European tradition of “bridge” holidays on days that fall between a national holiday and a weekend—as some US organizations already effectively do with the day after Thanksgiving, which is always celebrated on a Thursday. PayScale decided to do something a little more dramatic this year and have an “Independence Week” holiday for all its employees, PayScale Marketing Campaign Manager Cassidy Rush wrote at TLNT last week:
Declaring an Independence Week, most of our 440 employees will take the entire July 4th week off. Paid. And since we have unlimited PTO, this doesn’t count against anyone. Because we are a 24/7 technology company with customers who will be at work, we’ll have a team on-call over Independence Week to handle any urgent issues. They’ll take another week off. We prepared everyone for our week of rest with a very intentional communication strategy, notifying customers of the office closure and sharing the why behind Independence Week. The feedback we received from customers was overwhelmingly positive. … PayScale’s reasoning behind independence week is two pronged:
First, Independence Week is for our employees. We hope that by providing a week of collective rest, PayScale is giving employees the confidence and support they need to totally disconnect from work for an entire week.
Second, Independence week is for our customers. We firmly believe that our employees will come back to PayScale after the break feeling recharged and refreshed.
PayScale’s approach to the mid-week July 4 holiday is similar to the notion of shutting down for the typically slow business week between Christmas and the New Year. Rush’s explanation for PayScale’s Independence Week sounds very much like the reasoning behind PwC’s annual tradition of shutting down for the last week of the year.