PORTLAND, Ore. (TheStreet) -- When Christmas falls right in the middle of the week, those working on the holiday might just be more productive than those taking the holiday off.
A survey by the Workforce Institute at Kronos and Harris Interactive conducted last year suggested that working on the holiday not only isn't rare, but is fairly ordinary for many Americans. Roughly 38% of all full-time workers took off on Christmas Eve last year, while 26% of full-time workers said their workplaces were closed for the entire span between Christmas and New Year's Day.
That's been changing rapidly since the end of the recession, when only 14% of people took Christmas Eve off in 2007. Granted, 32% of people took the entire time between Christmas and New Year's off that year, compared with just 18% last year, but even a modest, sputtering economic recovery makes a whole lot more work for everybody.
The Kronos survey found that despite all the time off, 68% of respondents said it was "business as usual" at their office. Meanwhile, 17% said December was their busiest time of year, while only 15% said their workplace was "a ghost town." Surveys of company executives by temporary staffing agency Accountemps regularly rank Tuesday as the most productive day of their employees workweek. That goes out the window when everyone is counting down the minutes until their day off, but that's where a willing holiday staff comes in.
There are few places where this is more true than the restaurant industry. Antonio Prontelli, the executive chef at Rock Center Cafe in the shadow of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree, recently gave Metro a step-by-step schedule of his Christmas day that includes getting up at 4:30 a.m., has an early Christmas morning with his kids, arrives at his restaurant at 6 a.m. and prepares food until 1 a.m. By the time he gets home, he's pulled a 22-hour day and fed 1,000 to 1,200 people. By contrast, refusing to work on Christmas resulted in a British chef's firing earlier this season.
McDonald's caused a stir last year by suggesting to franchisees that they were passing up $5,500 in income by closing their doors Christmas Day. The chain caught heat at the time, especially since the move came during a year McDonald's saw sales decline sharply, but it's not out of line for the fast-food industry to keep doors open that day.
Sonic, Yum Brands' Taco Bell and DineEquity's Applebee's all leave it up to franchisees to decide whether they'll open Christmas Day. Jack In The Box, Starbucks, Dunkin' Donuts and IHOP also tend to keep the doors open that day. Not only is Denny's open for the holiday, but Christmas Day is one of the biggest sales days on its calendar as folks flock in for a holiday breakfast they don't have to make.
Movie theater chains such as Regal Entertainment and Carmike are going to be open, too, as David O. Russell's ensemble mob movie American Hustle, Disney's pat-on-the-back Mary Poppins story Saving Mr. Banks and the heavily promoted Will Ferrell comedy Anchorman 2 all have been seeing Christmas week debuts.
While government workers typically get Christmas day off, they're seeing a few other perks dry up this year. While the government typically writes the Tuesday before a Wednesday Christmas off as a loss and sometimes gives a Christmas Eve off as a gift from the president, that seems unlikely this year. Government employees got a few more days off than they or their employers would have liked as a result of the sequester and ensuing government shutdown and might not get another if their bosses who helped cause the shutdown in the first place decide they've missed enough days already.
-- Written by Jason Notte in Portland, Ore.
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