For many employees, Labor Day is a welcomed three-day weekend — but for business owners, it might seem like an inefficient use of a business day. However, Labor Day is much more than another vacation or a lost work day. So why do we celebrate Labor Day? The reasons behind the holiday — and the benefits — have gotten lost through the years.
If you’re a business owner, you should welcome Labor Day as an opportunity to promote company morale and increase employee satisfaction.
If you’re an employee celebrating this cherished holiday, take a minute to appreciate the intent behind the day of relaxation and what it means for you and millions of others.
What is Labor Day?
In Canada and the United States, Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It’s a public holiday that honors the American workforce and the labor movement. It’s come to be known as Labor Day Weekend, which is a three-day weekend that many consider as the mark for the end of summer.
Why do we celebrate Labor Day?
The first known record of Labor Day was Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. New York’s Central Labor Union was credited with starting the holiday, and their intention was to dedicate a day to celebrate the American workforce and their contributions to the social, economic and general well-being of the country. In 1894, Congress declared Labor Day as a legal, national holiday.
On a macro-level, Labor Day’s intended to recognize and honor employees’ continued effort to strengthen and grow our economy. On a micro-level, companies celebrate Labor Day to show their appreciation for their employees’ hard work and commitment to the business’s goals and mission.
How businesses can celebrate employees year-round
Labor Day is an important holiday that is rooted in employee welfare and corporate responsibility. The reasons for why we celebrate Labor Day are important — not just for the holiday, but to help owners understand the role employee happiness and satisfaction plays in company productivity. If you want to celebrate your employees year-round, here are three tips you can use in your company today.
1. Find ways to promote happiness
A study from the University of Warwick found that employees who were happy had an increase of 12 percent in productivity. As a business owner, it’s your job to motivate your employees and one of the best ways to do that is by creating a positive and welcoming work environment.
However, Google conducted an experiment where they invested their resources into creating a positive environment focused on employee support and satisfaction rather than monetary incentives. As a result, they saw productivity rise to 37 percent.
Some simple strategies to increase employee happiness include:
Recognize and reward little and big wins
Many managers and owners reward employees for big wins, like landing a huge deal or completing a big project. These are great times to recognize employees, but those events are so infrequent that many employees can go unnoticed for weeks or months.
Even things as simple as a pat on the back or thanking your employees for their effort can go a long way in increasing their happiness.
Take interest in their life outside the office
It’s important to separate work from personal life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get to know your employees on a personal level. Take some time out of the day to check in on how your employees are doing outside the office.
Make the office fun
Focus on making work fun or at least making the office fun. Buy breakfast for your employees, encourage dress-down Fridays, offer flexible work hours, try to find simple ways to make your employees happier — anything you can think of to boost morale.
2. Encourage internal communication and feedback loops
Communication is one of the most important ways for businesses to improve employee satisfaction and increase retention rates. Likewise, a lack of communication is one of the biggest organizational pitfalls and can lead to conflict and a hostile workplace.
The internal feedback shouldn’t be entirely top-down. It’s important that constructive criticism and ideas be shared openly throughout all areas and departments within the company.
Additionally, there should be a concerted effort in the organization to break down all department silos that might organically form. It’s natural for employees who work closely with each other to communicate and bond, but when you have multiple areas of your company that segment themselves from other departments, it can lead to tunnel vision and inefficiencies.
3. Emphasize personal and professional growth
Indeed conducted a survey of 8,000 adults that found 71 percent were actively looking for a job while they were still employed. This indicates that most employees are not satisfied with their current role. There might be several reasons they are unsatisfied, but it boils down to a lack of engagement or fulfillment.
Look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to help understand how important personal and professional growth are to a person’s happiness.
Self-actualization is defined as the fulfillment of one’s potentials and talent, and it is the last driving force in the pyramid. In other words, as you move up the pyramid (shown below), you are motivated to satisfy the next level.
It’s conceivable that most employees have met a lot of their main needs, such as shelter, security, nutrition, relationships and self-esteem. Thus, the last piece to the puzzle is a desire to reach their full potential. This psychological driving force relates to professional and personal development.
Managers need to understand that their employees desire more than status quo, and you should also want more out of your employees.
Challenge your employees to take on more responsibilities, offer training, and develop skills that will improve their daily work but also their professional trajectory.
Great companies will also promote personal growth. This starts with your employees’ health and wellness. It’s scientifically proven that employees who are active and health conscious are more productive. In fact, employees who eat healthy are 25 percent more productive, while employees who are active for at least 30 minutes three times a week, are 15 percent more productive. If you want to improve employee satisfaction and celebrate your team, emphasize a healthy office that cultivates and perpetuates professional growth.
So now you can stop asking yourself, “Why do we celebrate Labor day?” We take the day to honor and salute our workforce. However, business owners must recognize that they need to celebrate and promote employee well-being and satisfaction throughout the year, too. Happy employees are more productive and committed to the company, so strive to make your employees a focal point on Labor Day — and every other day of the year.