"Monday mornin', it was all I hoped it would be… "

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If you are back to work, make it a great week...

Monday mornin', it was all I hoped it would be…

Photo by Warren Cook

In European mill towns it was called “Wakes Weeks” - the time-honored tradition of mills observing the weeks in July off - usually the first two. “Wakes” didn’t refer to funeral traditions, but holiday fairs and festivities. No surprise the tradition has faded, but many in Europe, and probably here in the US, too, are mentally checked out - if not physically - and the ‘holiday’ time is still talked about, if not always observed as intended.


In the US, particularly in “factory towns” you did not have a choice about vacation - the factory would shut down for the first two weeks in July - and that’s when vacation was. And often it was unpaid. It wasn’t until long after those times that employees were given the civility of choosing their own weeks (if in fact they had any weeks available to them). Understandably, for small companies and those with a “mill” and machinery bent, keeping business going while workers stagger vacation can really be very inconvenient, if not impossible. 


A lot is changing in “working hours”. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, “on an average day last year, 23.7% of full-time workers spent at least part of their workday working at home, compared with 18 percent in 2003”.


We also have more and more job sharing, working from home, and four-day work weeks. “Give me my computer, a cup of coffee, my fuzzy slippers, t-shirt and jeans, and my cat at my side, and we’re good to go with a greatly productive day ahead,” said one self-employed entrepreneur.


One wonders how millennials who are used to working from home, could ever acclimate to a 9 to 5 Dolly Parton world - there are probably scores who will never know the full feeling of what she sang her heart about and energized a generation of women:


Tumble outta bed and I stumble to the kitchen
Pour myself a cup of ambition
Yawn and stretch and try to come to life
Jump in the shower and the blood starts pumpin'
Out on the street the traffic starts jumpin'
With folks like me on the job from 9 to 5



With unemployment at record lows and jobs aplenty, workers who want to make the jump for more money, better working conditions, or advancement opportunities, can easily do it. Employers need to know that, and employees need to find confidence if they have been working for years in fear of losing their jobs. They may not have believed there were options for them, but if you’re wanting to jump - now is the time to do it.


Many companies realize that to hold on to valued employees they have to be creative. It’s often not the money that keeps people happy. Research points to recognition from “someone who matters”, such as their immediate and other bosses, being the best person to provide that eye to eye contact moment - and making a real difference to their workers.


Companies are also experimenting with a four-day work week - even if that means longer hours in those four so that the highly coveted one day off can happen. Companies such as Shake Shack, and software companies all over the country are experimenting not only to keep their employees but to address “employee burnout”, acknowledged to be a very real thing.


Steve Schragis, director of One Day University says they are trying the four-day work week with their company and it’s working out well. In many cases, others say, the work getting done in those 4 days is “stepped up”, too.


Weekends aren’t the end of our working days, so many of us don’t get a full, refreshing break. Again, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employed people worked an average of 5.4 hours on a weekend. But going the self-employed route, while giving you freedom on any given day, also cuts into that time off, with self-employed workers more likely to work on weekends than salaried employees, at 41.1% compared to 28.0%.


Add into that the “sandwich generation” taking care of children, often at highly expensive daycare costs, while running to see parents and extended family in their homes or care facilities, family mealtime, after-school sports and homework, and all of that. One day off can be literally life-saving to a precarious family balance.


As the Independence Day holiday week and weekend comes to an end, we wave good-bye to some delicious weather and time to recoup, even if we haven’t had the whole week off.  And for those who have a Wakes Week, with one more to go - and great weather expected - it’s a tip of the Statue of Liberty crown to you!  Because for the rest of us - tomorrow - is - Monday.


Photo of the Statue of Liberty by Warren Cook. 

Note: Edouard Rene de Laboulaye, a prominent political thinker of his time in France, and president of the French Anti-Slavery Society thought about how wishes of freedom and democracy were turning into a reality in the United States. To honor this, he proposed a gift be built for the US on behalf of France. He hoped to inspire the French to “call for their own democracy in the face of a repressive monarchy."