First Fridays, with a Twist

By AnaStacia Nicol Wright

Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

Worksafe is located in the heart of downtown Oakland. We’ve been here for four decades; we consider ourselves locals. As locals we very much miss the pre-pandemic fanfare of First Fridays in Oakland. So much so that we had to bring it back, revamped!

Back in October of 2021 Worksafe’s management team approved a new work schedule. Per this new schedule, Worksafe will be closed on the first Friday of each month, which started on November 5, 2021. Known internally as “First Fridays!” (well, that’s what I keep tryna make catch on :-)).

Oh and did we mention the mandatory day off is PAID!!

We took this step to be even more in line with our policies to support the health and well-being of California workers — and that includes us! We can’t effectively help the community achieve healthy and safe workplaces without doing the work internally first. And while we’re all still adjusting to the shift, the feedback has been positive (because, afterall, what worker reacts negatively to a paid day off?!).

One of the small hiccups we’re working through is schedule management. Although Worksafe is off on the first Friday of every month, the rest of you aren’t. Therefore, we tend to come back to a hoard of emails, requests, etc.

How to arrange our schedules so that we can take these Fridays’ off without coming back on Monday and feeling overwhelmed is the process we’re working on; but, we’re committed to it.

Another small issue is how to handle meetings, hearings, conferences, training, etc. that other organizations need us to attend on those days. There are a few things to iron out like making sure taking the day off doesn’t actually cause a pile-up of work when we all come back…but, again, we’re working on it.

As radical as all this may sound, it isn’t. The 40 hour work week, as we now know it, was created in 1938 when Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor and Standards Act. Now, there’s plenty of good stuff in there, however, IT’S OOOOLD.

In writing this, we hope to encourage other employers out there to consider renegotiating this “social contract”. It may seem crazy, but imagine the uproar when Illinois was the first state in the U.S.A to mandate an 8 hour work-day. Or, how flabbergasted folks probably were when FDR said any time worked over 40 hours requires overtime pay.

It’s been almost 100 years. It’s time for a change. Family life is different. The way we understand the importance of mental health and personal care is different. Work-Life balance is only an idea, if employers don’t actually take the time to create policies conducive to truly balancing their employees’ life needs with their company’s work needs.

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