Some companies making time for workers to watch Obama inauguration

The Baltimore Sun

Workplaces, especially those around the Baltimore-Washington region, might feel like a holiday on Inauguration Day. Some employees are taking the day off to attend the event, while others hope to watch it at work.

Some bosses are accommodating their workers by allowing them to bring televisions or holding viewing parties at the office. A few companies are even giving their workers a day off to reflect on the swearing-in, though they don't expect everyone will stay home and watch the event.

Many businesses in Washington are closing Tuesday, partly because of traffic congestion and logistical issues related to the inauguration.

The Rosen Group, an arts marketing and publishing firm in Baltimore, is holding an inauguration viewing party with multiple televisions, catered lunch and champagne, says founder Wendy Rosen. The firm also invited art gallery owners, clients and friends to the event.

"We work with about 7,000 small arts businesses around the country, and the economy has been pretty difficult for them and so this is an opportunity to be a little optimistic for the day," Rosen says.

"I decided since everyone wanted to go to the inauguration and we know that traffic will be bad ... we'll have our own party here, and we could watch it in comfort and really enjoy the day," she adds.

At Baltimore's public relations firm Profiles Inc., the staff will watch the inauguration while working. It will be a casual day at the office, says president Amy Elias. Knowing her employees' work ethic, Elias says she doesn't expect productivity to suffer.

"It will be a momentous day for our country, and we shouldn't miss it," Elias wrote in an e-mail to her seven employees.

Kathy Sharpe, chief executive officer of Sharpe Partners, a digital marketing agency in New York, will be off Tuesday. And she's giving her 15 employees a paid day off as well. That, along with the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday Monday, means a four-day weekend.

"It's really about history; it's not about politics," says Sharpe, who plans to watch the inauguration on TV and head to the movies later.

Chubb Group of Insurance Companies' Black Employee Network organized a lunchtime viewing event at its Warren, N.J., headquarters and another office in Whitehouse Station, N.J., where employees can watch the swearing-in at several conference rooms.

Workers at other offices also can watch the inauguration via live feeds on their computers, said Dudley Pasteur, a Chubb business analyst and vice chairman of the Black Employee Network.

Pasteur says the group discussed whether it should plan an inauguration event because it tries to avoid any overt political activity.

But with support from management, "we thought we should move forward given the historical nature behind this," says Pasteur, who will be heading to Washington for the event.

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