Dan Simon had a lot of work to do on Election Day.

But the Seven Stories Press publisher knew there wouldn’t be any progress on those 50 books that needed editing, marketing, designing or some other i-n-g. His mind, and the minds of his staff, were elsewhere.

When one of Simon’s part-time employees told him she was going to juggle her work schedule so she could help turn Quakertown, Penn. from a red town to a blue one on Election Day, he readily agreed. Three of her officemates thought that sounded like a great idea and decided to join her, especially since Simon was willing to give them the day off.

“I don’t think anyone would have been working,” said Veronica Liu, 30, production manager, while sitting shotgun on the road to Quakertown with two other co-workers.

A Precedent in Politics

For an election cycle where the nation’s souring economy has become today’s central issue, building it back up is largely a job that can wait until tomorrow. For today, at least, politics took precedence, even in workplaces. Some took extended lunch breaks to go vote or make calls for their candidate. Others “cyber slacked” at work, obsessively checking news updates on the Web.

And then there are people like Mysore Gandhi, 65, a researcher in cardiology for a children’s hospital in New Hyde Park, Long Island. With six months of unused vacation, Gandhi told his boss that he was going home on Election Day to “sit back and see the historic day.” He got a blank stare and several of his co-workers thought he was crazy. They reminded him there was a reason that polls stayed open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

“I’m just relaxing on my chair, put on CNN and I’m soaking in the information,” he said around 4 p.m.

But Gandhi knows a lot rests on this election. He is worried about what opportunities there might be for his children and believes the country needs “change.”

A Powerful Force

For Gandhi and Simon’s employees, this election has proved there is a force out there larger than the daily grind. That’s what Greg DeLucia, 29 and Dan Connell, 29, both reality TV producers for “Wife Swap,” found out this week when an ABC executive sent them this email: “There’s only one thing more important than ‘Wife Swap,’ that’s voting.” They upped their boss by taking an extended lunch break to work at a phone bank for Barack Obama on Monday.

It turns out that it’s not only good company policy to allow people to take off work to vote — it’s the law. New York is one of 23 states that allow workers to leave the office for a period of time to vote on the company dime, according to Find Law. If an employee doesn’t have four consecutive non-working hours between polls opening and closing to vote, they are allowed two hours to skedaddle. That is, of course, as long as the employee makes the request between two and 10 days before Election Day.

But really, for those left at work, how much is actually getting done?

“I can tell you the water cooler is not confined to the water cooler,” said Grant Murphy, vice president for enterprise solutions at Secure Computing, which helps businesses filter Internet content. He said this election is not unlike the Olympics and March Madness, other periods when employee goofing on the Internet can cause real headaches for a company.

“If you have a large enterprise where you have several people doing ‘political research’ to see what McCain did on SNL, that really kills Internet bandwidth,” said Murphy. “The net effect is that Internet access will be impaired.”

Web Hits

Last election cycle, clicks on presidential websites were concentrated during business hours, according to comScore, Inc. A spokesman for the company said he didn’t know if that was the case this year. But the group did see that Obama’s website got 5.3 million unique hits in September, up 1,176 percent for the same period last year. Johnmccain.com got 2.9 million first time visitors.

Huffingtonpost.com, the most popular political blog and news site, saw unique traffic rise 474 percent for the month, compared to last year. Politico.com, the number two site, saw 344 percent more eyeballs this September than last.

But should employers block such sites?

“I don’t think companies should block news-related sites because of the many legitimate uses for news sites, and there’s a risk of harming employee morale by being overly restrictive,” said David Burt, a blogger at Filteringfacts.org, who used to work at Secure Computing and N2H2, another company that filters websites for clients.

Simon, the publisher, certainly won’t have to worry about that. Two thirds of his staff took the day off.

“I just feel too nervous about the election,” Simon, 50, said while driving to an Obama phone bank in the city on Tuesday. “I would be doing things that have nothing to do with what is going on in the world, which doesn’t feel right.”

AD MAN: Matthew Broderick made this ad in support of Barack Obama, encouraging supporters to take the day off from work or school to get out the vote.