This Labor Day, as we enjoy our extra day of leisure (or intense yard work for some), we should remember that the standard two-day weekend we take for granted is not even a hundred years old.
In 1926, the Ford Motor Company began a revolutionary new work schedule, where employees were given both Saturday and Sunday off. The company was the first major American manufacturer to do so.1 Henry Ford’s intentions for this change weren’t entirely altruistic. He’d seen reports that smaller companies which had experimented with the five-day work week had experienced a boost in productivity.
The first widespread practice of taking a day off each week was officially implemented by Roman Emperor Constantine in the 4th century AD. He syncretized the Judeo-Christian Sabbath (our Saturday) with the pagan day for the sun god Sol, which gave us our modern Sunday.
This six-day work week was the standard for the next 1400 years until factory workers in both America and Britain began taking matters into their own hands with the observance of “Saint Monday.” By the mid-19th century so many workers were recovering from their Sunday hangover by skipping work on Monday, that their employers were forced to act.
“Partly out of desperation,” writes historian Amanda Foreman, “British factory owners began offering workers a half-day off on Saturday in return for a full day’s work on Monday.” Rail companies supported this initiative by offering cheap Saturday excursions.
By the 1870s the term “weekend” was in popular use. And fifty years later companies like Ford began giving all of Saturday off.
One of the benefits of giving workers the weekend off, in addition to improved productivity, was that it also gave them the time to spend their wages on leisure activities. This in turn boosted the economy, creating more demand for the goods they were producing.
Today there’s a growing movement to shift to a four-day work week. And there have been several large-scale studies to test its feasibility. One of these, conducted recently in the U.K., involved 70 British companies and more than 3,300 workers.2 After six months the study found that while some companies faced challenges implementing the new schedule, only a few experienced a loss of productivity. 46% of respondents reported that productivity stayed about the same. 34% reported that it improved slightly. And 15% said it improved significantly.
When workers have an additional day to take care of personal matters and recuperate, they seem to become more productive and engaged.
Researchers report that companies that have a good understanding of their internal processes and what their employees actually do each day have a much easier time transitioning to the shorter schedule. As popular demand for the four-day work week grows, companies that offer it will have an advantage when competing for workers.
So, until the three-day weekend becomes standard, we hope you enjoy the upcoming one we call Labor Day by getting a chance to relax and recharge.
If you ever have any questions about your investments or retirement plans, please feel free to give me a call at 801-545-0696.
Stonecreek Wealth Advisors, Inc.
11576 S State Street, Bldg. 1002
Draper, UT 84020
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