Labor Day is conveniently celebrated at the beginning of September, while symbolically designating not only the end of August (a popular vacation month) but the end of summer vacation in general. Funny thing is, for more and more Americans, the Labor Day Weekend is becoming the actual vacation for many individuals.
A recent study showed that among the nations leading in the production of goods and services, the United States is way down the list in terms of "time off". In China, workers average 3 weeks off, ditto for Japan, while Americans average one week of vacation per year. One week! That's half as much as France, Germany, Italian and England. Researchers say that this is creating a generation of workaholics. A country that is living by the motto of "time is money".
But darn it, we're the greatest country in the world, you say! And you know WHY we're the greatest country in the world? Because we work all the time! That was said half-tongue-in-cheek, but consider this: in 2005, Americans work an average of 50 hours or more a week. And for many, less time worked is less money made. Conversely, all those extra hours show that Americans increased production by 14% in 2005, while salaries have actually decreased by 2% over the same period of time. Now what's wrong with those numbers?
American employees tend to wake up earlier in order to make time to check e-mail, and bring more work home with them. The result: less time to spend with family, less time for work around the house and in general less time to just relax.
Psychologists say that the issue isn't that Americans work so MUCH. The worry - and it seems to be a valid issue - is that too much work over time affects the "quality" of work being done. So if you're working 50 to 60 hours a week and half your output sucks, where are the benefits? The result is that a vacuum of sorts has been created. A 40-hour work week with Saturday and Sunday off is o longer the norm. And this is not necessarily a new phenomenon. The late Walt Disney used to have a sign hanging up his employees lounge that read, "If you can't some to work on Saturday then don't plan on coming to work on Monday!"
So what exactly are you trying to say?
Employers may want to see their employees relax a bit but not at the expense of a decrease in output. In fact, the impetus - say some researchers - for the creation of the palm pilot, laptop computer, cell-phone internet connections and other hi-tech wonders isn't so much to make life easier, it's to enable individuals to keep working no matter where they are.
For some companies this may be the exception and not the rule. Price-Waterhouse, one of the most reputable financial institutions in America if not the world, recently decided that they would shut down operations for one week at the end of the year. No questions asked. Just do it. The result was a literal avalanche o e-mails thanking upper management for such a wise decision. One of the premier hotels in Chicago has a no cell-phone/no laptop rule in its lobby. You want to do that stuff in you're your room - go ahead. But in the lobby you RELAX. Even worse (in a good way) is the American Management Association which actually writes up it's employees if they don't take all the days off they are entitled to and or earned.
Hey maybe there is hope after all.
There is not necessarily a catch-all solution to this argument. People are gonna do what they feel compelled to do. And compulsions can easily become habits. The bottom line may be just WHO is deciding what is the "bottom line"? The individual or society?