The concept of time is measured in astral terms with each day, month and year being measured by the movements of astral configurations. However, the concept of the week, an integral part of our daily lives, is entirely manmade. Unlike the ancient Babylonians who tried to synchronize lunar movements with time, modern man has adopted the endless seven-day cycle.
Like the seven-day week, the weekend is also man-made. In former times when there was no official weekend, workers in England considered Monday a holiday. They deemed this day as Saint Monday, adding it to the holy Sabbath or Sunday and creating their own weekend. However, this system began to have a negative effect on the economy, so workers began returning to work for a half-day on Sundays. The need for two days of rest was so great that workers willingly accepted wage cuts in exchange for the days off.
The radical changes that the Industrial Revolution brought to daily human life also brought problems to the workplace. The increasing demand for production and a larger workforce forced workers to work longer hours. Industrialization had a profound effect on the concept of time, and time became a commodity for increasing the profits of business tycoons, while every second wasted meant lost money. The main goal of the earliest worker unions of the Industrial Revolution was to arrange long working hours.
In 1914, Henry Ford took the first major step for the creation of weekends by increasing the daily wages he paid workers from $2.34 to $5. Ford believed that the higher their purchasing power, the more workers would spend. This concept led him to offer his workers a two-day weekend. The reasoning behind this was that workers who had more time and more money would spend more money, thus boosting the economy - and buy cars. The concept of the two-day weekend expanded over time and, with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, the rights of U.S. workers with regard to the weekend were legally protected.
Over time, the weekend concept spread around the world. In the U.K., Canada and some other countries, the weekend was accepted as a holiday. In most European countries, Saturday was a half workday. Cultural changes also affected the choice of weekend days. In some Middle Eastern countries where the majority of workers are Muslim, Friday and Saturday are considered the weekend. On the other hand, in some Gulf and North African countries, Thursday and Friday are accepted as weekend days. However, with globalization and the increase of international economic relations, Saturday and Sunday began to be accepted as weekend days around the world.
With great power comes great responsibility
Perhaps the most important word describing the 21st century is technology. Increasing technological developments are gaining unprecedented momentum and have changed human life entirely. Thanks to smartphones, social media and a myriad of other means of communication, people can communicate continuously with each other at any time or place. The reflection of this situation on business life is undeniable. The means of communication that keep people in constant communication also keep people working constantly. Leaving the office does not mean that the work is over; you may have to continue to work just because of an email that has been sent to you. This situation also affects workers' weekends. You can find yourself at work on weekends when you're actually supposed to be off from work. For freelance workers, there is no longer a distinction between weekdays and weekends. The weekend is a hard-earned concept that took a long time to achieve. However, it is now beginning to disappear due to changes of the past decade.
The disappearance of the weekend has changed business life in such a short span of time; so that many white-collar workers claim that they love their jobs and are happy to spend their weekends working. Some of the strategies applied by the companies also have a share in this situation. Many companies describe themselves as a big family and try to ensure that their employees have an integral connection with their work. In addition, most companies in Silicon Valley turn their workplaces into an entertaining place, almost a playground, aiming to increase their workers' commitment to their work and the amount of time they spend in the workplace.
It seems that the disappearance of weekends has gained so much acceptance that people who work more and are constantly busy are considered to be of higher status and importance. Until a few decades ago, it was a status indication that someone has a leisure time to pass but now, the situation has been reversed. It is a fact that people who spend their weekends working, who respond to calls frequently, and those who spend their weekends on business trips are considered much more important than others.
The truth of the matter is that there is no parallel connection between the increase in working hours and productivity. In an experiment in Gothenburg, Sweden, work hours were reduced from eight to six hours and workers were observed to be up to 85 percent more productive. Some steps have also been taken on this subject in other countries. France has banned workers from emailing each other between the hours of 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 a.m. to prevent them from constantly working. Google Ireland invited its workers to participate in the Dublin Goes Dark project and leave their electronic devices when finishing work. The company Basecamp extended the weekend to three days. The common point of all these experiments is to have happier, more productive workers. So, perhaps the "less is more" concept is real when it comes to productivity and the balance between work life and social or family life.