These are the findings of the 2012 Working the Holidays survey, commissioned by the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc. and conducted by Harris Interactive. The researchers polled 2,691 adults between Nov. 30 and Dec. 4 to see how many Americans will work during the year-end holidays. The results were then compared with those of a similar survey conducted in 2007 just before the recession hit.
Bittersweet as it is, the figures for 2012 are higher than those for 2007, when just 14 percent of people planned to take off Christmas Eve and 16 percent planned to take off New Year’s Eve. Both days fell on a Monday that year as well.
"We are seeing a trend of more people taking time off this holiday season and more employees reporting that their organization is closing for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day,” said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute.
When asked if their place of work closed during the entire time between Christmas and New Year’s Day, 26 percent of full-time employees said yes, compared with just 18 percent who answered the same in 2007.
“After the tough economic conditions of the last few years when many organizations have reduced headcount and merit increases have been small if given at all, it's possible that employees are feeling more encouraged to use their paid time off and also that organizations may be looking to reward their staff for weathering the storms of the past few years with an extended vacation," Maroney said.
Ruth Bramson, CEO of Girl Scouts of Eastern Massachusetts and a member of the board of advisors for The Workforce Institute, agreed. She believes stronger benefits packages can offset smaller compensation packages.
“More time off is a critical aspect of that,” she said. “Once we evaluated the cost-benefit picture, it was an easy decision to close our offices for the week.
“The reality is that holidays are a slower time for Girl Scouts activities -- and many other businesses -- and employees really appreciate having the time off to spend with loved ones. It is particularly helpful for folks who travel to visit families and now can stay longer or travel at off-peak times."
According to the survey, 68 percent of workers said December was “business as usual,” while 17 percent said it was their busiest time of year and 15 percent said their workplace was a “ghost town.”
If more people are taking time off during the holidays, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re using more vacation days. A separate poll, conducted by Harris Interactive for travel website Hotwire, found that by the end of 2012, Americans will leave an average of 9.2 days of vacation unused, up from the average of 6.2 days recorded in 2011.
Nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said they would take more trips if they had the time and money to do so.