Some firms give workers 4 days off for Fourth of July

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Employees at Scott-based health care consulting firm Development Dimensions International spend their days assisting other companies in implementing fair employee benefit programs. So when July 4 landed on a Thursday this year, CEO Bill Byham knew that he had to give his own employees Friday off, too.

"Nothing has met with more internal praise than that decision -- I've personally gotten 150 emails about it so far," Mr. Byham said. "They filled my in-basket. Employees were saying, 'Thank you, my family will really enjoy this.' "

Like several other large firms and small businesses who have opted to morph this year's midweek Independence Day holiday into a four-day weekend, Mr. Byham said his decision hinged upon the fact that many of his firm's clients would be taking Friday off, too. Even if his employees came to work, he said, they wouldn't have anyone to work with.

Generally, firms that have decided to stay closed through Friday ask a bare-bones staff to come into the office, sometimes in shifts, to handle any emergencies that might arise. Tom Peterson, managing partner of Downtown-based law firm Tucker Arensberg, said that out of a staff of 140 people, about 15 will come into the office on Friday.

"If there's a need, it's clients first. If someone had a court appearance or something, we'd be there," Mr. Peterson said. "We've reached out to our clients, and we're finding that most of them are taking days off, too."

John Challenger, CEO of the Chicago-based executive outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, said that in the past decade, American workers have been trending away from taking long vacations in favor of mini, three-or-four day getaways. A Thursday holiday, he said, presents a perfect opportunity to take just such a break.

"Americans used to jump in a car and take a family vacation," Mr. Challenger said. "Now, we're much more paranoid about taking long vacations. We're even staying in touch with our offices when we're on vacation."

As for businesses that have made the calculation to stay open on Friday, several managers interviewed said the extra day -- which will invariably be slow -- will allow employees to catch up on busy work.

Many are also giving employees a half-day or an early dismissal -- part of a summer Friday policy that acknowledges flagging spirits at the end of a slow, hot week.

Still, not all Pittsburgh companies are expecting the long holiday weekend to be a drag on business.

Many of the stores in Market Square, which opened to cater to Downtown businesses, will remain open despite the holiday. In fact, the Bruegger's Bagels location, which traditionally closes on the July 4 holiday, will remain open this year to feed Regatta-goers and furry-costumed Anthrocon conference attendees.

"We won't have as much business, but we will be open and adequately staffed," said Travis Lumbrezer, general manager of Noodles & Co. "We want to be here when they're ready to come in and eat."

And some businesses are practically thrilled. The Manor movie theater in Squirrel Hill is bringing on several extra employees to manage the influx of customers expected this weekend.

"It was very, very busy for the Fourth of July last year," said manager Jeff Sanderson. "So we're expecting more business this year, too."

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Michelle Hackman: or at 412-263-1969.


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