A day of rest

The history of the Sabbath day amazes me. I’m not talking about the religious context whether you believe it’s Saturday or Sunday, or whatever your views may be. What fascinates me is the necessity of rest in our lives as living organisms. It all stems from the commandment in Exodus chapter 20 regarding the Sabbath. The Israelites were slaves under Egypt’s rule and had no concept of rest—until now. This law provided rest for every living thing; you, your family, your guests, your employees, your animals, and even the your land (vegetation). Everything was required to rest one day a week.

History reveals how the Sabbath was integral for an industrial nation like the USA. During the industrialization period, the wealthy corporations would have driven the blue collared workers to death by working them seven days a week. Fortunately states found value in this Biblical law of keeping a day of rest and instituted the “Blue Laws”, so coined for the effect they had on blue collared laborers. These laws prohibited working during the Sabbath (what Christians might believe is Sunday) which in turn, allowed laborers to rejuvenate between six days of harsh working conditions. Without even realizing it, the blue collars were able to persevere and endure (in part because of the Blue Laws), and they made this country into something pretty darn great.

Then we got smarter, or something, and decided we didn’t need these Blue Laws because they were only hindering our progress for making America even greater. Sure, working conditions improved which allowed for lengthier work shifts, but there were still negative psychological affects happening when humans were corralled into cubicals away from family and personal time. I believe America achieved amazing technological advancements due to the rigorous time invested from humans, but much of this was at the cost of relationships and basic humane necessities—one of those being rest. We became a people who abandoned vacations, and sick days while our European neighbors enjoyed their siestas.

Unfortunately history was repeated. Quality became poor, relationships were lost, and we found ourselves enslaved once again… but this time by shame. We felt it shameful to ask for vacation time, or to take a sick day thinking we might be passed over for a promotion due to excessive time off. And so we were enslaved to labor once again, and we were losing humanity. Everything became about the all mighty dollar, and our communities, and our families suffered.

But finally something happened. Numbers became evident, employee turnover rates were ridiculous, and people were speaking out. Fortunately companies listened. Employers took note of how healthy other nations were in comparison to the United States, and work environments began to change. Research became evident that Americans take fewer, and shorter vacations. But little by little we’re recognizing this and taking necessary steps to ensure a healthier work environment. This ideal has been titled a “healthy work-life balance” and companies showcase this as one of their hiring perks. While promoting more vacation, some employers even removed the old 90-day probation period. Others went on to award full vacation time at the date of hire; no longer requiring one to accrue time off. Then others offered more vacation and sick time, and even allowed nap times during work hours because they recognized the value of refreshed employees during the second half of the day.

It’s been a beautiful dawn of health in the workplace. The Sabbath has been reintroduced—whether it’s only a day, or a moment during work—it’s a time of rest. I, myself, work for a company that offers a 2-3 month Sabbatical after 5 years of work. And like my weekly Sabbath, I look forward to the opportunity of a 2-3 month Sabbatical as well. Perks like this have proven to ensure healthier, more engaged employees, saving the company thousands of dollars while retaining excellent talent. It’s a blessing to be a part of this time where companies value their employees and make efforts to improve their health. If you aren’t experiencing this, I suggest you speak up. There are many companies providing benefits and perks like this nowadays, and HR departments seem to be invested in employee happiness. You have the power to change your environment.

The Sabbath is an old concept. It’s deeply rooted in our physiology and proven to strengthen our productivity. If ever you’re craving creativity, or desiring to move your business further… then I suggest you start by taking a day off.

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