The Dundee Fortnight – or the trades holiday as it is also known – spanned the last week in July and first in August and was when the city’s heavy industries traditionally fell silent.
A small moment of collective rest and recuperation where the clattering din of the city’s mills – by far the largest employer following the industrial revolution – was temporarily set aside for a more calm existence as workers took leave of their posts and headed for the sunnier climes of Wormit, Newport and Broughty Ferry.
Some went further afield still, to St Andrews, the East Neuk and beyond.
The Dundee fortnight may not be the all-consuming industrial shutdown it once was but it is still observed in pockets across the city.
And its latest advent got me to thinking whether we actually make the best of our down time today.
In times gone by being physically away from work meant you were fully disconnected from what was going on.
You had no choice but to let work go, to relax and unwind.
But mobile phones, email and the internet mean that doesn’t carry any more. And I know from personal experience the temptation to pick up the phone and ‘check-in’ is strong, no matter where you are in the world or how distracting the view.
Life and work is so fluid these days that things can change in an instant, and just switching off is a difficult skill I have had to learn.
I now force myself to ditch the phone and walk away.
That might sound good for me – it may even sound a little selfish.
But there’s an increasing weight of evidence which suggests making holidays count is as good for the employer as it is for the employee.
Put simply, a jaded or stressed workforce is not a productive workforce.
Why do you think time off is legally mandated?
Holidays are our opportunity to step away, to refresh and ensure we are in the best possible shape– both physically and mentally – when we return to our desks.
The Dundee Fortnight was about renewal and workers embraced it with gusto. They worked hard but they knew how to play too.
That’s a lesson from the past which the super-connected workforce of today would do well to learn.