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No long weekend this Canada Day; work productivity expected to hit low Monday

TORONTO - Canadians looking forward to a July long weekend can be forgiven for feeling a little short changed this Canada Day.


TORONTO - Canadians looking forward to a July long weekend can be forgiven for feeling a little short changed this Canada Day.

With the country's biggest party falling on a Tuesday, failing to trigger three days off work in a row, the public service and many private companies expect staffers to be at work bright-eyed and bushy-tailed both Monday and Wednesday.

In short, if you're not dipping into your vacation bank to make it a four-day break chances are your bosses want to see some output Monday.

But the question remains: Will they get it?

A phenomenon not altogether uncommon - it occurred, most recently, in both 2003 and 2004 - a single work day flanked by a standard weekend and a grand fete will undoubtedly have an adverse affect on productivity.

Health Canada staffer Christina Mathers admits Monday will likely be an "easy day."

Several colleagues have already booked the day off and her boss isn't going to be there. And since many of the people she typically liaises with will also be out of the office, there's a lot of work that simply can't get done.

"There may be a few things to finish up. Tie up loose ends. Get caught up on e-mail, paperwork, clean the desk," she said, noting she'll likely come in a bit late, leave a bit early and take an extended lunch with fellow colleagues who are around.

"It won't be a stressful day."

While tough to put a dollar figure on the economic impact this day-long loss of productivity might have, York University marketing professor Richard Leblanc suggested it's there and it's inevitable.

"Just by virtue of being in between two holidays, they're just not working at full productivity," he said, adding employers that recognize this might look at making Monday productive in a different way.

Leblanc suggested it may be a good day for a barbecue or a team building activity.

It would generate goodwill and show staffers that the company is both flexible and understanding, he said, noting workers will likely get some work done while also helping to build the corporate culture.

"It's an opportunity to think creatively about being productive in non-typical ways," he said.

"Just because you can't quantify the upside and you can more readily quantify the downside doesn't mean that you can't marry the two."

Still, many employers view it as a regular work day and expect staff to bring the same professionalism to the office that they would on any other day of the year.

Robert Makichuk, a spokesman with the Treasury Board of Canada which manages the finance of federal departments and agencies, said while many staffers have chosen to use their allotted days off in order to get a long weekend or even the entire week off, each department must maintain a core staff.

"When we approve vacation leave which employees are entitled to, we always take into account the operational requirements of the unit," he said.

"You don't offer an entire team a day off if you can't cover the basics of what you do."

Noting summer can be a quieter time for some federal departments whose operations are tied to parliamentary business, Makichuk said he nonetheless expects staffers who are there Monday to work.

IBM Canada spokesman Mike Boden agreed Canada Day shouldn't affect productivity, especially with June 30 being the quarter-end for the company.

"We actually work right up through the end of the quarter on closing deals," he said. "We don't usually give the last day of the quarter off as vacation unless it's a statutory holiday."

Some companies are taking a different approach.

For the last three years, accounting firm Ernst and Young has been giving its entire staff of 3,900 coast-to-coast a paid four-day weekend every Canada Day.

Staff also get a four-day weekend during the August Civic holiday and on Labour Day weekend.

"People really like four-day weekends in the summer and it's a bit of a thank-you for working hard all year," said human resources director Karen Wensley.

She said it has less to do with concerns about productivity and more to do with the company's overall "people first" philosophy aimed at attracting and retaining the best possible staff.

 
 
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