KUNM

Happy Holidays? Indeed, For Some Stuck At Work

Dec 29, 2011
Originally published on December 30, 2011 9:18 am

It's the last workweek of the year, and just about half of American workers have been in the office.

If that sounds like a drag, well, meet Louise Tucker-Mitchell.

She works for Enterprise Rent-A-Car at Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport. For her, at least, being stuck at work between the holidays is a secret pleasure.

Things are unusually quiet. Traffic is uncharacteristically light. "This is the free time when you can sort everything out and get it done," she says.

Like going through piles of unfiled papers, sorting through the lost and found and calling owners of the items and, of course, enjoying office holiday potlucks with her colleagues. There's roast chicken, sometimes turkey, green beans, and lots of talk about cocktails and a sweet wine called Moscato, Tucker-Mitchell's favorite.

"Honey, let me tell you something: She's the smallest one that works here," she says of a co-worker. "If you see the rest of us, you know we eat."

Rentals spike before and after the holidays. But in between, it's almost like having a holiday at work — almost.

"Oh! We got a call," she says with surprise as the phone rings. "Thank you for choosing Enterprise Service in Ronald Reagan National Airport. This is Louise. How may I help you?"

There is, of course, another benefit to working on holidays: Pay is double time and a half.

"I love it. I love working holidays," Tucker-Mitchell says. "You know how fat that check looks? [You] need a wheelbarrow to take it to the bank."

Hardly Working?

According to a recent survey, 56 percent of U.S. workers had planned to go into the office this week. Many said they'd use the time to catch up on work, but more than a third said they didn't expect to be productive.

"What we've found is that [for] most people, the offices are open, business is still going, but really there's not much work done," says Andrew Brown, communications director for Regus, a flexible workspace company that commissioned the survey.

Brown says it's worth debating whether most businesses should be open at all. He says he expects in coming years that more employers will opt to shut down.

But shutting down is not an option for everyone. And Adam Treiger, an employment lawyer in California, says companies aren't obligated to pay their nonsalaried workers if they close.

"Certainly there are issues of morale, too, and the way employees feel about holiday closures," Treiger says. "You don't want to necessarily put your employees out of work and not [pay them] during that time when they need the money to buy gifts and other things. So that's an issue, too, that a lot of employers have to think about."

A New Year, And A Fresh Start

Indeed, Treiger himself worked the week between Christmas and New Year's.

"As a partner in my law firm, I'm not an employee, so I'm always working," he says with a laugh.

Nor is it quitting time for Trip Kucera in Boston, who says he loves working this week. With very few meetings to break up his day, the business analyst gets a chance to go through what he estimates is 3 inches of paper stacked on his desk.

"I'm kind of a messy person at the desk," he says. "But I like things clean."

Kucera is also tackling unanswered emails, and it all makes him feel like he can start the new year fresh. He says he might even have a chance to catch up with some colleagues.

"If you see another person in the office, you're like, 'Oh, you're here! Wow! OK, cool, I'm not alone,'" he says.

Not alone at all; an easy workweek loves company.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

All that campaigning means hard work in the holiday season. For about of American workers, this week has meant time off.

LINDA WERTHEIMER, HOST:

For some, it's an especially busy time, though, for finishing year end business or covering for absent colleagues. And as NPR's Yuki Noguchi reports, being stuck at work between the holidays is, for some, a secret pleasure.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: Things are unusually quiet at Enterprise Rent-a-Car at Reagan National Airport outside Washington, D.C. Traffic is uncharacteristically light.

LOUISE TUCKER-MITCHELL: OK, hold on for one second, please.

(SOUNDBITE OF TYPING)

NOGUCHI: For Louise Tucker-Mitchell answering phones in the back office, that's just fine.

TUCKER-MITCHELL: This is the free time when you can just sort everything out, you know, and get it done.

NOGUCHI: Like going through piles of unfiled papers, sorting through the lost and found and calling owners of the items and, of course, enjoying office holiday potlucks with her colleagues.

TUCKER-MITCHELL: Honey, let me tell you something. She's the smallest one that works here. OK?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TUCKER-MITCHELL: If you see the rest of us, you know we eat.

NOGUCHI: There's roast chicken, sometimes turkey, green beans, and lots of talk about cocktails and Tucker-Mitchell's favorite, a sweet wine called Moscato.

TUCKER-MITCHELL: Isn't it good? Oh, come on. Let's go to my house and pick up the bottles that we got. OK?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NOGUCHI: Rentals spike before and after the holidays. But in between, it's almost like having a holiday at work - almost.

(SOUNDBITE OF A RINGING PHONE)

TUCKER-MITCHELL: Oh. We got a call.Thank you for choosing Enterprise Service in Ronald Reagan National Airport, this is Louise. How may I help you?

NOGUCHI: And there is, of course, another benefit to working on holidays: Pay is double time and a half.

TUCKER-MITCHELL: Oh honey, I love it. I love working holidays. You know how fat that check look? Need a wheelbarrow to take it to the bank.

NOGUCHI: According to a recent survey, 56 percent of U.S. workers go into the office this week. Many will use the time to catch up on work. Over a third say they don't expect to be productive.

ANDREW BROWN: So what we've found is that most people, the offices are open, business is still going. But really there's not much work done.

NOGUCHI: Andrew Brown is communications director for Regus, a flexible workspace company that commissioned the survey. He says its worth debating whether most businesses should be open at all. He says he expects in coming years that more employers will opt to shut down.

But shutting down is not an option for everyone. And Adam Treiger says doing so can raise some thorny issues. Treiger is an employment lawyer in California. He says companies aren't obligated to pay their non-salaried workers if they shut down for business.

ADAM TREIGER: Certainly there's issues of morale, too. And the way employees, you know, feel about holiday closures. And you don't want to necessarily put your employees out of work and not getting paid during that time, when they need the money to buy gifts and other things. So that's an issue, too, that a lot of employers need to think about.

NOGUCHI: Are you working the week between Christmas and New Years?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TREIGER: Yes. As a partner in my law firm, I'm not an employee. So I'm always working

NOGUCHI: Nor is it quitting time for Trip Kucera in Boston. Kucera says he loves working this week. With very few meetings to break up his day, it gives this research analyst a chance clean what he estimates is three inches of paper stacked all over his desk.

TRIP KUCERA: I'm kind of a messy person, at the desk. But I like things clean. And so...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

NOGUCHI: Kucera is also tackling unanswered emails. And it all makes him feel like he can start the New Year fresh. He says he might even have a chance to catch up with some colleagues.

KUCERA: It's like if you see another person in the office you're like, oh, you're here. Wow. OK, cool. I'm not alone.

NOGUCHI: Not alone. An easy workweek loves company.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington.

WERTHEIMER: It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.