MIAMI — While many of us are buying Christmas trees, shopping for holiday gifts and feasting, Ron Magill likely will be working. • Magill is communications director at Zoo Miami, which opens seven days a week, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. With his staff pared down, Magill will be on site most of the holiday season. And he expects other managers will be there, too.
"It's a sign of the times," he said. "If my staff wants time off, it means I will cover for them. My supervisors need to do that, too. We have to be the ones who make the sacrifices."
This holiday season, many workers and managers will sacrifice their long ski vacations and time hanging around home with the kids. Most will either be at the office, or completely plugged in through e-mail and voice mail.
"It's an all-hands-on-deck mentality this year," said Ryan Skubis, district president for Robert Half International/OfficeTeam in Florida, a consulting firm.
Despite "use it or lose it" vacation policies, most senior managers say they will forgo time off between Thanksgiving and New Year's beyond employer-provided days off. An OfficeTeam survey of 1,000 senior managers at companies with 20 or more employees found 31 percent plan to take no time off and another 25 percent plan to take only one or two days at most before year's end.
Even more, workers who do plan to take vacation time say they will stay completely connected. A survey by staffing agency Adecco of 1,000 people found nearly one in five Americans who rely on phone and e-mail for work planned to spend more than five hours checking their e-mail and/or voice mail on Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year's Day.
Blame the economy, the job market and the calendar. Most managers say they are too nervous or overloaded with work to take more than a day off through the end of the year.
"Companies are running lean and there's so much work out there to be done, that managers feel hesitant or guilty" about taking time off for the holidays, said Skubis.
Job security also is a concern. Sales at some companies still haven't rebounded, and unemployment remains in the double digits in many states. As a result, higher-salaried managers are unnerved.
Whether or not the job insecurity is valid doesn't matter, said Terence Connor, an employment lawyer with Hunton & Williams in Miami. Workers believe they have to push the rock up the hill harder, he said. Yet few employers would fire a good performer for taking a vacation day, he says.
But getting real rest time seems almost impossible this holiday season. At Stiles Corp. in Fort Lauderdale, human resources vice president George Boue will take a few days off before Christmas to spend with his daughters, who are home for college.
Even in a family-oriented company like his, though, taking those days off can feel unsettling. In the past two years, the construction industry's slowdown led to downsizing, and the company has trimmed 75 people, or 25 percent of its work force. Boue says that with everyone working harder, he gave his staff first crack at scheduling days off before planning his own vacation time.
Still, his time off won't be a complete break from the office. He definitely plans to check his e-mail.