Labour Day Weekend – What Does it Mean For You?
For me, the main significance of Labour (or Labor – depending whether one is north or south of the 49th parallel!) Day has generally been that it is the last weekend of summer; a last ‘hoorah’ before returning to school or work. As such there’s a certain sadness about it, at least for those who enjoy summer and don’t really look forward to the change of pace and return to cooler weather that September often brings. At the same time, there’s a sort of desperation to make the best of the long weekend, to extract the maximum pleasure from every moment before the inexorable slide into fall and winter.
However, there’s a greater significance behind what has now just become another enjoyable long weekend for most Canadians and Americans.
The United States Department of Labor has this to say:
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
In fact, the holiday weekend was granted in the US in 1882 as a holiday for workers and is now generally celebrated with picnics, parades and barbecues.
In Canada, it arose from a mass demonstration in downtown Toronto; read more of that here:
In 1894, Labour Day became a national holiday in Canada.
The labour movement has come a long way since the latter part of the 19th century and today’s workers mostly enjoy benefits and protections that were unheard of then. However that does not mean that there is not a long way further to travel. By no means all workers enjoy the protections and benefits that others do – and exploitation still exists. People are struggling to make ends meet on minimum wage and often asked to work unfair hours. Also, in North America, vacation time is often minimal compared with some other countries and long hours may be the expectation for many employees, even if they are compensated with higher salaries.
At Prompt Proofing, we are firm believers in a healthy life/work balance. For many business owners, however, this is something of a fantasy that can be challenging to achieve. Those of us who are location independent, working almost exclusively online, do – theoretically – enjoy flexibility in terms of work times. It can be advantageous to decide to work in the evening or early in the morning and leave part of the day free for either sports, leisure activities, family time, or personal appointments. Enjoying a hike on a beautiful summer day instead of being stuck behind an office desk is assuredly appealing. Yet business doesn’t always work that way.
Many small businesses experience a ‘feast or famine’ scenario. This can frustrate the best laid plans; just as a perfect stretch of weather comes along – and you decide to take a mini-vacation – that’s exactly when your business suddenly goes into overdrive! In fact, if things ever get really quiet on the business front, I generally joke that I just need to book a vacation and infallibly work will suddenly pour in! Managing the unpredictability of busy periods can be frustrating and challenging for some business owners.
To some degree, a definite pattern may emerge, particularly if your business is affected by seasonal events. Other patterns may be more difficult to establish. When you find business is quiet on a rainy day in fall, that may be the perfect time to focus on the important – but less urgent – aspects of your business. On these days you can plan, prepare and get ahead, so that you’re well organized the next time you’re inundated with work. Quiet times are good for doing admin, getting financials up to date, reviewing your website, focusing on marketing and scheduling events for the upcoming months. With all this in place, you can deal more easily with the busy times.
Some people deal with the life/work balance by strictly scheduling “off-duty” times. Again, this is difficult for small businesses that are available to their customers 24/7 or sometimes run single-handedly. However, even the busiest business can set parameters. My own goal, for instance, is to keep Sundays free of work; sometimes that doesn’t pan out but generally I can schedule around it and keep at least a good part of the day free. Similarly, I try to be disciplined about setting aside time for fitness activities – maybe working late in the evening and enjoying a hike or yoga class in the afternoon. I also have an aversion to being stuck indoors in beautiful weather so will often choose to take my laptop into the garden, or a nearby park, and work from there in the summer. Whatever works for you!
Going on vacation means always taking a laptop and cellphone but – if you’re lucky enough to have a partner or associate, you can usually trade off vacation times and get your partner to pick up the slack while you’re away. Labour Day was intended to give workers more of a break – make sure you give yourself one – get out and enjoy this weekend!