Pause and Reflect: It’s Labor Day

As the pandemic has made all of us reflect and re-evaluate many aspects of our lives, I started to think more about our relationship to work.

On a recent trip to Asheville, NC, I saw many help wanted signs. The service industry is desperate for employees, but they are not alone. White collar workers are leaving their jobs in droves as well. HR Magazine from the Society of Human Resource Management had a cover article on what’s being called “the great resignation.”

With Labor Day just around the corner, I became curious about the origins of the holiday and I wondered how labor has changed. I did a quick search and read this excellent article:

Labor Day 2021

It seems that the incredible toil that our forefathers, and foremothers, endured has been softened and lightened. Significantly shorter work hours, much improved working conditions, additional paid holidays, and more interesting work have all been the result of industrial, economic, and technological advances. The world of work has evolved for sure!

The results are a drastically better work life for almost all workers, across all industries. So why is there a “workplace tsunami”? And can we make work even more reasonable and rewarding? Mental burnout and fatigue is different from the fatigue that comes with manual labor, but it is real and needs to be addressed.

I encourage employers to develop programs and policies that support the following:

  • Part-time work for all, even professional staff, that offers opportunities for leadership and advancement
  • Additional paid vacation time
  • Flexibility in business hours to make medical appointments, child care, and avocations more accessible
  • Paid and unpaid sabbatical opportunities
  • Remote work, drawing on a labor force located in different parts of the country and world
  • More consultancy and specialized assignments performed by outside vendors and suppliers

Today’s workers want work to be a part of their lives, without consuming their lives.    

Whether you are picnicking or pondering this Labor Day, I hope that you will pause for a moment and give thanks for the improved working conditions that those who came before us have created for our future. May your work provide both a reasonable income as well as intellectual stimulation and fulfillment.

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