What Labor Day Teaches You About Employee Appreciation


On Monday, September 3rd, the United States celebrated Labor Day. Although everyone enjoys the holiday for their own particular reason—a day off work, a barbecue in the park, the final day of the year to rock your white clothes—the true history of Labor Day often gets overlooked. While Labor Day exists to commemorate the American working class’ triumph over unfair working conditions, it also reminds us that at every small business, the daily struggle is real to create the best work environment for everyone. It also shows us why keeping employee appreciation as a top priority will prove to be a key asset to your small business.

So while you look back on your 3-day weekend, enjoy this brief history lesson of Labor Day, complete with a short list of easy ways to boost the happiness of everyone who works at your small business, including you!  

The History of Labor Day

In the early 18th century, American laborers fought very harsh conditions in order to make a living. Working conditions were unsafe, hard work was rewarded with poor pay, and the length of the workday was unstandardized. This was a time when employees worked 60, even 70, hours a week! Sometimes, those “employees” were only 5 or 6 years-old.

As the Industrial Revolution began to automate agricultural work, rural American workers began working in urban factories. These large groups of manufacturing laborers would eventually organize their own labor unions. To advocate better working conditions and ignite social change, these unions organized labor strikes that would encourage companies to improve their work-life quality.

These strikes involved taking the day off work and marching in parades. In September of 1882, 10,000 workers held the first Labor Day parade to march in New York City. In 1894, Congress formalized the first Monday in September as Labor Day, a holiday to commemorate the economic advancement of working men and women.  

Those are the short history facts of Labor Day! Forever, people have wanted to do work where they feel safe, happy, and fulfilled, and Labor Day celebrates the American worker’s journey to achieve that.

How To Observe Labor Day Today

Of course, your employees aren’t working 23 hour work days, or getting paid one penny per hour. But at every company, there is always something you can do to make a sunny work environment even brighter and improve employee appreciation!

Here are some quick tips to observing the “spirit” of Labor Day every day at your company.

  • Equip your employees with the tools they need to succeed. Has a restaurant ever served you soup with a fork? We sure hope not. As a business manager, it’s always important to ask your employees what tools they need to do their job effectively. Maybe your accountant would save time processing payroll if your company were using electronic time tracking instead of paper timesheets. Or maybe your construction crew needs a new bulldozer. Employees will feel the best at their job only if they have the best tools.
  • Check in regularly with employees to gauge satisfaction. You already have twice as many ears as you have mouths, so be sure to use them to listen to your employees’ cares and concerns. An employee who engages regularly with their manager, and who feels understood and appreciated, will be more engaged at work
  • Create delightful employee appreciation events or benefits. Did you know some companies give their employees a day off for “Pawternity” leave when they get a new pet? This is just one among the infinitely many ways to show your employees that they are valued. It also protects them from burnout. So don’t hesitate to order a company lunch, or end the work-day early on a Friday. Your employees will appreciate the gesture, and you’ll enjoy it too!

You can find a whole list of happy-stoking practices here. Like we said, there are infinitely many ways to keep your work environment enjoyable and stimulating.

While Labor Day recognizes the successful efforts of the American workforce to win better work conditions for everyone, it also challenges small business owners to ask themselves how they can boost the working conditions for their employees and improve employee appreciation policies.

Keep the spirit of Labor Day alive by asking yourself how you can make your workplace even better for your employees, and for you.

Author: Morgan Cassady

Contributor: For construction and field service companies who want to get rid of paper time sheets, ClockShark is the GPS time tracking app that’s both powerful and easy to use.

The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accountingmarketingtechnology and more.  Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted.  The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.

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