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Seibert Media employs around 200+ talented people in Germany and the United States. Indeed, we are a company that transcends borders, which is why we are taking a moment to recognize Labor Day. It pays tribute to the achievements of everyday workers that contribute to the economic and social backbone of society. This US federal holiday always falls on the first Monday of September - this year it is on the 5th.
For most countries, it is celebrated on May 1st and is synonymous with “International Workers’ Day.” You may be wondering why the US celebrates it on a different day than the rest of us; well, the US tends to do a lot of things differently (like the metric system or writing dates MM/DD/YY), but the answer is quite complex and intertwined with politics and history.
Regardless of when it is celebrated - For many Americans, the day is a signal of the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. It is a chance to enjoy a long weekend with family and friends (partake in cookouts, barbeque, parades, etc.). Here in Germany, although we do not get an extra day off work, the principles of why it's celebrated are nonetheless worth appreciating! Let’s take a look at why we celebrate our everyday workers and the progress history has made in ensuring fair working conditions.
Working conditions: American Industrial Revolution
Everyone can agree (at least I hope you can unless you are made of steel) that being an everyday worker takes a lot of energy and time. 35 to 40-hour work weeks are manageable, although sometimes it can be a bit exhausting. It is safe to say that everyone can appreciate their days off, paid leave and having nice colleagues and a fair working environment. But what if none of that really existed? Believe it or not, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States - the working conditions were extremely tough.
In the late 1800s, the average American worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week. That is equivalent to an 84-hour work week! Can you believe it? In several states, many children as young as 5 years old worked in mills or coal mines. For instance, in the mines, boys worked as "nippers" who had to open and close the doors that sealed off mine shafts so that fresh air and coal carts could pass through. This was a dangerous job where, if you didn’t watch out, you could be hit by a cart full of coal thundering down the tracks! Indeed the working conditions are subpar to say the least.
During this time, labor unions began to pop up in order to protest and negotiate better working conditions and pay. While there were several violent protests during this time, it also led to what became known as the first “workers’ holiday” or Labor Day. The first Labor Day “parade” was on September 5th in 1882 - 10,000 workers took unpaid leave to march throughout New York City. Soon, several states followed suit to celebrate their own Labor Day. Due to popular demand, in 1894 it became a federally recognized holiday!
Workers’ expectations - constantly evolving
Thankfully we are no longer in the 1800s or subjected to 80+ hour work weeks: 40-hour work weeks have become the norm (there are exceptions of course; doctors, entrepreneurs, self-employed people, etc.). Labor Day is a time to honor and appreciate workers’ rights that didn’t exist a century ago.
Even now, working conditions and worker expectations are constantly evolving. Within the last decade (and catalyzed by the pandemic) many companies are questioning their work culture and organizational structure. Concepts such as flexibility and employee satisfaction are being prioritized. In fact, in a recent study, many “millennials” in the job market value the ability to maintain a healthy work-life balance and personal development over a higher income or status.
Employee expectations are not limited to income or working conditions - they can include environmental concerns or diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Nowadays, many people have the luxury to choose and work for companies that align with their own personal values.
It is important for an employee’s expectations and the reality of their working experience to align. If there is a gap, it can be a huge source of frustration as there is a clear breakdown in fundamental communication. I mean, imagine if you signed up for a 35-hour work week, but in actuality, it is an 84-hour week workload with constant overtime…
While this may be a far-fetched example in this day and age, it is clear that not only would this dampen the employer-employee relationship, but it will also hinder overall performance, both for the company and employee. For instance, employees will more than likely lack the motivation and commitment to work hard, which can lead to lower productivity, and companies may even risk missing important performance goals.
It is quite obvious that companies that are able to narrow the gap between reality and expectations are going to be more productive and successful. Companies should consider this going forward (if they are not already), and while there is no fool-proof guide or “right” answer to narrow the gap - it is clear that communication and a willingness to act and not sit ideally by is essential.
Sink or swim - we are all in the same boat
At Seibert Media, we proudly stand by our values to ensure fair working conditions and benefits for our employees. As a company, flat hierarchies and a high degree of personal responsibilities are a part of our everyday lives and how we work as a company. We are an agile organization, which means we trust our employees to work independently and collaboratively to get work done.
We motivate our employees to contribute their own ideas and have a voice in company decision-making. In doing so, we are leaving room for creative and often transformative ideas. Honestly, it's a win-win for everyone. If you would like to become a part of an organization that values collaboration, communication, and transparency - take a look through our German or English job openings here. You can also send us an open application on our job portal in English or German. Want more insight on how we function as a company? Check out our unique onboarding process and what some of our most recent hires have to say about their experience so far.
So even if it isn’t “officially” Labor Day here in Germany, here is a warm shout-out to our American colleagues - happy Labor Day! From around the globe, let’s take the time to appreciate one another and that we got rid of 84-hour work weeks. 😉 And although this marks the end of summer, we can enjoy the changing of the leaves and some cooler weather (let’s be honest, it’s been unbelievably HOT).
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