On Fridays I post a floral picture and wish everyone a good weekend. But even as I extend my wishes, I realize that what I think of when I use the word “weekend” isn’t accurate. Many people work on weekends as part of their regular hours. Others bring work home. I did that for years. And then, there’s the errands and jobs you need to do in order to survive the week ahead — laundry, for example. Parents have obligations to their children’s activities. The list goes on. Which is why many Americans don’t experience weekends as leisure time. But regardless of their activities, I want people to have a good weekend. And I hope they have a good week as well.
Achieving a work-life balance has been the subject of productivity and lifestyle reports for quite some time. Katrina Onstad recently joined in with “The Weekend Effect: The Life-Changing Benefits of Taking Time Off and Challenging the Cult of Overwork.” The title implies that taking an entire weekend off could be seen as a revolutionary act. So, what would it look like if we took time off — and how would we fill it?
Onstad suggests we work more than European medieval peasants who worked where they lived, took long naps, and had lots of religious holidays. Before you sign up, do some research on peasant lives. Life wasn’t as idyllic as Onstad makes it sound. These workers look less than fulfilled with their reaping hooks and supervisor.
More to the point, Onstad reminds us that the concept of a weekend — two days when one isn’t at the workplace — is less than a hundred years old. Factory workers fought long and hard for the eight-hour day and forty-hour week which became reality in the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. These were factory workers on assembly lines, not necessarily office workers whose jobs were less strenuous.
The Ford Motor Company adopted the five-day, forty-hour work week on May 1, 1926, extended it to office workers in August, and paid male factory workers $5.00 a day, a very high wage at the time. The result: increased productivity and company loyalty.
Weekends opened up a world of possibilities for leisure time activities. Workers might want to purchase a Model T Ford and use it for fishing as in this photo.
We don’t drive Model T’s any more. Office workers don’t use typewriters. And weekends aren’t what they were. At this point, it’s useful to look at two definitions:
WORK – mental or physical effort done to achieve a purpose.
LEISURE – the use of free time for enjoyment, unhurried ease.
So, technically, work and leisure aren’t mutually exclusive, unless the work activity prevents us from doing what we want to do. This is a real issue because with smart phone technology, work can follow us everywhere.
Enterprise-Rent-A-Car surveyed one thousand Americans to see how many worked on the weekend. I don’t know why they did that. Maybe they wanted to have weekend leisure rates.
Anyway, seventy per cent of respondents said they worked one weekend a month. Seventy-four per cent of respondents between the ages of 25 and 44 said they can’t stop thinking about work.
Hmmmm…. That may not be an entirely bad thing.
And working on the weekend isn’t always a negative. Many people like what they do, or use the hours they put in on the weekend to balance days when they leave work early.
The key then is the so-called work-life balance which is somewhat like this golden retriever balancing on a teeter-totter. Most of the time, one side or the other will take over. The key is to keep pushing for the middle, the space where you can spend time with your family, pursue your favorite hobby outside of work, or just chill.
Wishing you an excellent week.
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Photo of palm trees by author. Other illustrations from Wikimedia Commons.
Men Harvesting Wheat. Public Domain.
Ford Assembly Line, 1913. Public Domain.
Model T Ford 1913. Public Domain.
Henry Ford, 1919. Public Domain.
Golden Retriever on teeter-totter by Ron Armstrong. Creative Commons Attribution.
“Ford Factory Workers Get 40-Hour Week. History.com
Ed Conroy. “Q&A: Katrina Onstad, Author of The Weekend Effect.” Toronto Life. April 17, 2017.
Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats. “It’s the Weekend! Why Are You Working?” Harvard Business Review. April 10, 2015.
J. Maureen Henderson. “Working on the Weekend is the New Normal.” Forbes. April 28, 2017.
Katrina Onstad. “The Concept of the Weekend is Dying.” NBC News. Nov. 3, 2017.
Sandra Wagner-Wright is the author of Two Coins: A Biographical Novel and Rama's Labyrinth. Both books are available in digital and print editions at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, and Kobo. Rama’s Labyrinth and Two Coins are available as audiobooks.
Sandra blogs weekly about topics related to her travels, writing life, and the incongruities of life in general.