Election Day as a Paid Holiday? This Is a Workplace Benefit We Need a Lot More Of

John Hollon Audacious Ideas, Employee Engagement, John Hollon, Policies, Talent Strategy, Workplace Flexibilty

The older I get, the more I find that I treasure one long-standing workplace benefit.

Yes, let’s hear it for the three day holiday weekend.

I’m thrilled anytime I can add a third day to a weekend, because as I learned a long-time ago when I worked a four-day week (yes, I worked four 10 hour days way back in the pre-smart phone dark ages of 1979), that third day really allows you to truly relax.

Tech firms are giving Election Day off

So even though it’s not adding a day on to a weekend, I wholeheartedly endorse the new trend where a bunch of tech companies have decided to give their employees a holiday this year on November 8 — Election Day — so they can vote.

As The Washington Post reports:

Nearly 300 tech firms want to counter the decades-long decline in voter participation by making Nov. 8, the day America will select its next president, a paid company holiday. In what may be the most coordinated effort yet by tech companies to change a downward trend in U.S. voting behavior, some industry officials say they hope their stance on Election Day will spur other businesses — and maybe even the federal government — to follow suit. …

The idea, proponents say, is to help compensate workers for the income they may give up by going to the polls (instead of going to work). The current list includes mainly smaller companies, not all headquartered in the Bay Area. But it also features household names such as Spotify, About.com and the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia.”

Guess what? This is a really great idea.

Not only does it help get people out to vote (and there is nothing more American than that), but it also gives them another day off, and in my long-time experience managing people, everyone benefits when employees get more days off.

Not only do workers come back refreshed (well, they’re mostly refreshed — unless they spent it in Vegas), but it gives them a mental break from the job that helps everyone when they return.

We should learn from Canada on this

In my book, we should look to what our neighbors to the North do when it comes to workplace holidays, because it makes a lot of sense.

Our Canadian cousins, besides being courteous, kind, and having incredibly clean cities (you really need to check out places like Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto), have also figured out that a three-day weekend is great for helping workers recharge their batteries.

In Canada, when you combine national holidays and provincial holidays, you end up with workers getting a three-day weekend just about every month of the year.

Maybe this is why Canadians are just so much nicer than Americans.

We could do worse than go to a system like this. Wouldn’t it be great to have a three -day weekend each and every month? Plus, it might temper the growing trend of Americans taking off more days around the three day holidays we do have to make them into four or five day holiday weekends.

I’m convinced that more and more people are doing this because the workplace is far more demanding now than it has ever been before, and people are doing anything they can do to find a little more time to unwind.

Even if it doesn’t do that, who cares? I’ve found that people do a lot better on the job when they get more days off to relax and recuperate, and I wouldn’t be surprised if a holiday system similar to what they have in Canada even helped to boost worker productivity too.

Unexpected holidays, unexpected pleasures

Over the course of my life, I have always loved unexpected holidays.

When I was in elementary school, California still celebrated Admission Day (Sept. 9) as a holiday to celebrate California’s 1850 admission to the Union as the 31st state. I still miss getting it off.

When I lived in Hawaii back in the mid ’90s, we got a day off for Kamehameha Day every June 11, commemorating when King Kamehameha I unified the Hawaiian Islands 1810 (mainly by pushing the Army of Oahu off a cliff). The State of Hawaii also celebrates Prince Kuhio Day on March 26, remembering a Hawaiian royal who not only helped overthrow the monarchy, but was also the first territorial delegate from Hawaii to the U.S. Congress.

More recently, I worked at a job where I got off a holiday that everybody used to get off — Columbus Day, this year celebrated on October 11.

I know Columbus Day isn’t celebrated as much anymore, and it’s become controversial in many places, but really, what’s wrong with giving employees another holiday off? Call it what you will — maybe Indigenous People Day? — but don’t punish workers by taking away a day off in our zeal to judge Columbus by 21st Century sensibilities.

There’s a way to make up for killing off Columbus Day of course, and that’s by making Election Day a national holiday, as a number of presidents (including Obama) have suggested we do.

You know my take on this: Why not? A few more paid holidays won’t break the bak, and they just might make for a little bit better, and happier, workforce.