There are always inventions and aspects of live that people take for granted. Personally, I take air conditioning for granted every day. It is one of those certainties in life we’ve grown accustomed to, only to notice it once it’s too late. I grew up in a family that had weekends off, it was a given: from Friday night to Monday morning, my family didn’t work. It wasn’t until I became an adult that it really dawned on me that not everyone was privy to the luxury of taking off work for the weekends (and holidays).
It is ironic to me that the history of the weekend came to be as a result of the Industrial Revolution–a time most see as an era of increased working and productivity. Furthermore, the idea behind the two-day weekend was genius. It was possibly one of the best marketing ideas since, well, ever!
The ability to please the masses, and in return make millions of dollars?!
It was done…and so simply.
Most people have the wrong impression, that the history of the weekend was built upon the backs of unionist; however, this simply isn’t the case. That isn’t to say that unions didn’t help. And don’t get me wrong, unions have their place in history, just not as the inventor of the weekend.
Henry Ford, the man behind the 40-hour work week, is to credit with the two day weekend. But don’t be fooled; this wasn’t given to his employees out of any kind gesture, it was to further his own greedy agenda and to make Ford Motor Company more profitable.
In possibly one of the greatest test cases regarding the high cost of turnover, Ford witness what I describe as “hemorrhaging money.”
To entice his employees to stay with his company, Ford more than doubled the minimum daily pay for his worker, on January 5, 1914, from $2.34 to $5 a day, and then sett the standard work week to a ‘five eight-hour days’ schedule. Ford Motor Company’s employees immediately became happy and there was an instantaneous cause-effect that immediately saved Ford money, cutting the cost of hiring new workers and training them. Additionally, the employees he retained became more efficient and effective.
As his employees now had the luxury of extended periods of off time and some extra money in their pockets, they started to purchase cars from the Ford Motor Company.
[P]erhaps the least discussed aspect of this policy was that Ford’s own employees were now able to afford the cars they themselves were building. This plowed money back into the company as Ford’s employees did just this very thing.
It wasn’t long before Ford’s competitors’ employees got wind of the high wages and weekends off at Ford Motor Company. To keep from losing all their workers, the other manufacturers were forced to fall in line, raising wages and giving employees the weekend off. It would not take long before this would become a national practice among employers.
As you prepare for your plans this weekend, it might be nice to take a moment and thank Henry Ford for your time off. 🙂 I know I will be!