One morning while on vacation last week, a member of our group separated himself from the rest to make a series of phone calls, and returned visibly upset. “What happened? Is everything ok?” we asked. To our relief, no one was hurt, no tragedy had occurred; the crisis was only work-related. But nonetheless, this marketing firm manager faced a situation that was indeed tragic in its own way, and serves to illustrate ways in which improvements can be made regarding productivity in Spain.
Our fellow traveler shared the story with us. An important client of theirs needed to make urgent changes to their holiday marketing campaign, as Christmas was less than three weeks away. The manager desperately tried to resolve the issue by phone, trying to coordinate his colleagues in their offices with those of the client. But alas, with key employees in both firms on holiday for the entire week, the manager had to concede that little could be done until the following week. The annoyed client in turn demanded compensation for the lost time, and the manager agreed to lower their fees. On the one hand, the client loses exposure during the critical holiday shopping season, and on the other hand, the marketing firm suffers a loss of revenues.
Almost all official Spanish holiday follows specific calendar dates, unlike many holidays in the United States(for example Thanksgiving necessarily falling on a Thursday). Since the beginning of October, Madridworkers have enjoyed five mid-week holidays. Two of these holidays, December 6 and 8 coincided with peak Christmas shopping season, and falling on a Tuesday and Thursday provided employees a great excuse to take the whole week off, and others to slack off. Experts can only roughly estimate how many millions of Euros of potential business was aborted due to this “lost” week. At a time of crisis and austerity, labor and management alike should seek a more efficient calendar, balancing respect of traditional holidays with 21st century business practices.