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May Day and Work Life Balance


The 1st of May , originally started as a an event to mark the change of seasons from spring to summer.

It was late in the 19th century that it started to gain significance as International Workers Day. There is an interesting connection here between May Day and the traditional work hours that we spend at office.

The Workers Day commemoration originates from an unfortunate incident called the Haymarket affair , which relates to a bombing that killed several workers and policemen. 

The workers on that day of May4th ,1886 in Chicago, were protesting peacefully for an 8 hour workday – that would help prevent the exploitation of workers through working of excessive hours.

The move for the 8 hour workday was initiated by a British gentleman called James Debb. The excessive work hours till then, ranged anywhere between 10 to 16 hours, six days a week – which was clearly burning out the workers at a rapid rate.

Robert Owen subsequently coined the slogan: “Eight hours’ labour, Eight hours’ recreation, Eight hours’ rest”. As large companies like Ford adopted the 8 hour workday , it gained a rapid adoption globally , and it now forms a global norm of work hours.

As you sit back and relax over this holiday weekend , spare a thought for those who fought to give you this work life balance – and on that day in May 1886 , where quite a few of them lost their lives for the cause.


Sourov Roy

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