Friday, September 1, 2017

Factories, Donuts, & Labor Day

My company is doing a weight loss challenge to promote health through November. Ironically enough, this announcement was made in a meeting that is celebrated by bringing in donuts.

Is weight loss healthy? Yes. Maybe. While the initial intent of the idea is great I think it misses the point a little. The better focus would be body fat percentage. Is it better to lose 30 pounds or 10% body fat? There are tons of variables that make answering this question more complex than a simple challenge.

We also celebrated the fact that we all have Monday off due to Labor Day in this meeting. Labor day and this weight loss challenge collide in terms of ideology in a way that I think we can learn from individually.

What is Labor Day? According to the USDepartment of Labor; 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.

A member of our Talent team made the statement this morning that it is a celebration of the normal 8-hour work day. What is “normal” and why are those hours chosen?  Is the logic that led to these normal hours even applicable to our culture now?

These normal working hours are referred to as the Eight-Hour Day Movement.  It started because working conditions were unregulated in Britain during the Industrial Revolution when large factories were booming.  It was a mechanism to limit abuse of laborers and children from working 10-16 hours a day.  The International Workingmen’s Association took up the demand for an eight-hour day at its convention in Geneva in August 1866, declaring The legal limitation of the working day is a preliminary condition without which all further attempts at improvements and emancipation of the working class must prove abortive, and The Congress proposes eight hours as the legal limit of the working day.  1866 is where this all started.  When this eight-hour day movement was being initiated it was to protect workers from being over worked in factories because they were production-based jobs.  You could spend endless hours on an assembly line or in a factor, so it makes perfect sense that this was a logical and humane course of action.  We don’t have many factory jobs anymore, we have moved on from the industrial stage and working looks a lot different today than it did even 20 years ago, especially different from 1866, 151 years ago.  Is it not a bit odd that we still use a system suited from a 151-year-old culture?  I’m about progress and don’t think much can be made without challenging or at least intellectually considering current systems. 

So what? Just poking holes in things like donuts, weight loss programs, and definitions of celebrations doesn’t do anyone any good does it? Instead of focusing on things that are only good in a vacuum, void of any context, let’s evolve and consider contextualized reality. Weight loss is good where and when needed, however, sometimes gaining weight can be better than weight loss. Sometimes no weight change at all is great if your body fat percentage changes. Is an 8-hour work day good? In the context of reducing abuse of hourly workers, yes. Is an 8-hour work day good for someone less industrial and more intellectual or analytical in capacity? I’m unsure of an affirmative answer here. We should celebrate working hard, but just putting in 8-hour days doesn’t mean one is effective. If efficiency more important than a simple chronological measure of an individual sitting at a desk?

When working an eight-hour work day, how effective is the work force? There are all sorts of statistics out there that measure how much time is wasted by the average worker in an 8-hour day. However, rather than looking at usage I believe it is more important to look at effectiveness and efficiency. How effective or efficient are you at what you do. Let’s not just simply lose weight or work an 8-hour day, let’s be more effective and lose body fat percentage and use our time efficiently for our companies.

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