Flexible working key to counteracting female workers’ ‘baby shame’

Flexible working key to counteracting female workers' 'baby shame'Whether the gender pay gap is more of a motherhood gap is an ongoing debate, but now a new survey has found that when even planning to have children, one in five (18 percent) working women hide their family plans from their employers. In an interview with the BBC yesterday, Labour Party leader candidate Yvette Cooper revealed that when she took maternity leave from her ministerial job in 2001, there was no procedure in place and when she sought maternity leave a couple of years later, things were made very difficult for her. If that’s how a high powered government minister is treated then it is no wonder over half (58 percent) of women feel they would have to alter their career in order to have a child, and why three quarters feel flexible working which doesn’t leave women feeling ‘baby shame’ for working child friendly hours is essential.

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And the unsurprising winner of the Carbuncle Cup this year is…

Walkie Talkie, winner of the Carbuncle CupIn one of the least surprising announcements of the year so far, Building Design magazine has announced that this year’s winner of its annual Carbuncle Cup is London’s Walkie Talkie. The building, officially 20 Fenchurch Street in the City of London, was always the frontrunner. Its bulbous 37-storey design has always been a source of contention with the Government, UNESCO and English Heritage raising objections to its impact on the London skyline. During its construction it raised practical concerns in addition to its undeniable aesthetic challenges and the shaky design of its ‘sky garden’, most notably by reflecting and concentrating sunlight to fry the street below (a problem solved by a multi-million pound investment in alterations to the facade) and by funnelling strong winds around its base (an issue that has prompted a wider look into the impact of tall buildings at street level).

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We need to do more than pay lip service to workplace wellbeing

BlakeEnvelopes-WorkSpace1Too many companies continue to talk about employees as their ‘greatest asset’ yet their fine words are not always not borne out in their behaviour, be that through working culture, remuneration or environment. With more and more investors using employee wellness and engagement as a barometer for the health, stability and culture of the business – the concept of workplace wellbeing is finally garnering the attention it deserves. Our workplace behaviours, cultures and environments are not keeping us fit, well, productive, happy or profitable. Finally businesses are accepting their moral responsibility to take better care of their people. So what affects employee productivity, creativity and happiness and how can changes to the workplace promote the best financial and moral outcomes for businesses and employees alike?

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Government announces plans to improve national levels of fair pay

North south divideA package of measures designed to improve levels of fair pay have been announced by the Government  today; including doubling the penalties for non-payment of the National Minimum Wage and the new National Living Wage; increasing the enforcement budget and setting up a new team in HMRC to take forward criminal prosecutions for those who deliberately do not comply. A new team of compliance officers in HMRC will investigate the most serious cases of employers not paying the National Minimum Wage and National Living Wage when it is introduced in April 2016. This team will have the power to use all available sanctions, including penalties, prosecutions and naming and shaming the most exploitative employers. Employers who fail to pay staff at least the minimum wage they are legally entitled to will have to pay double what they do now.

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A third of British workers believe their jobs have no meaning

10922702_421299938018878_2523462923584747909_nHere’s a cheery little snippet to welcome you back to work after your holidays and/or washed out Bank Holiday weekend. More than a third of British workers say their job is making no meaningful contribution to the world, claims a report from researchers YouGov. According to the study of just over 900 British workers, around 37 percent say their job is not meaningful, half of respondents (50 percent) say their job actually is meaningful to them, and 13 percent are unsure. Men (42 percent) are more likely to say their jobs are meaningless than women (32 percent). Despite this, most people with ‘meaningless’ jobs say it’s unlikely they will change jobs in the next 12 months – 53 percent, compared to 35 percent who say they might change jobs. According to the report, people who work in London are the most likely to feel unfulfilled by their jobs but, then again, they do work in London.

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BSI revises design and construction standard for facilities managers

BIMBSI, the UK based organisation responsible for developing and publishing standards for businesses, has revised BS 8536-1 Briefing for design and construction: Code of practice for facilities management (Buildings infrastructure). The standard has been included in the Level 2 BIM package which the Government expects companies to offer when tendering for Government contracts. The standard has now been brought into line with the principles of the Soft Landings Framework and Government Soft Landings (GSL) post occupancy evaluation and BIM requirement. Soft landings is designed to enable the transition from design and construction into operation. It advocates collaboration during briefing, design, construction and handover between the design and construction team and the operator, operations team or facilities manager.

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Lack of flexible working cost firms £1.5 million during tube strikes

agile workers tube strikeThe strikes by London Underground workers over the past two months have cost UK businesses some 1.5 million working hours because they did not have the flexible working policies and systems in place to allow them to adapt. According to a study of 1,000 employees from comms provider MeetingZone, just nine percent of firms offered staff the chance to work from home. Nearly three quarters (72 percent) of respondents said they felt let down by their employers’ policies and response to  the strikes. The lost working time cited by the report has been calculated on the basis of people arriving late for work. Almost half of respondents claimed they were up to an hour late arriving at work on the days of the strikes with two-thirds (66 percent) claiming they were an average of 38 minutes late. A further two strikes are planned for 8 and 10 September.

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Mind research reveals relentless email checks extend to toilet breaks

empty-toilet-rollThere have been quite a number of polls over the summer warning of the dangers of presenteeism and overwork; but the latest one from Mind does make for uncomfortable reading. It has found that more than 1 in 7 of people (15 percent) who receive work emails sometimes check them while in the toilet and nearly 2 in 5 (38 percent) of those who receive work emails admit that they often check them outside of work. Only half of respondents (50 percent) say that their manager respects that they have a life away from work. As well as having personal lives interrupted, the survey found that this relentless email-checking culture is making it difficult for workers to switch off when they should be preparing for sleep and the mental health charity warns a culture of working round-the-clock is making it difficult  for people to achieve a healthy work/life balance.

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The reason offices will always be needed is tied up with human nature

Far awayPeople have a tendency to confuse what is possible with what will happen. This appears to be a particular issue when we consider the effects of new technology. Hence the enduring talk of the death of the office, which technology makes possible but which people make impossible. One of the key areas of research that describes this tension is the work of Tom Allen at MIT. Allen made his name in 1984 with the publication of a book called Managing the Flow of Technology which first popularised the Allen Curve, a graph of his research findings which shows a powerful negative correlation between physical distance and the frequency of communication between colleagues. So precisely can this be defined, that Allen found that 50 metres marks a cut-off point for the regular exchange of certain types of technical information.

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Three quarters of employers fail to deal with employees’ anger issues

Three quarters of employers fail to deal with employee’s anger issuesThe gunman in Virginia who shot dead two people at his former workplace is thankfully a rare example of someone whose anger at work boiled over into extreme violence. But the case demonstrates the pernicious effect anger and resentment can have in a work environment. While colleagues are expected to work cohesively together to achieve mutual goals and targets, unfortunately this isn’t always the case, and there are often seething resentments building underneath the professional facade. A new study by Health Assured found that 86 percent of workers regularly vent their anger and frustration at a co-worker and three quarters (74 percent) of them claim that their manager regularly makes them angry by not leading the workforce effectively. A failure to manage such situations is borne out in the fact that 79 percent of employers admit to finding it difficult to deal with employees with anger management issues.

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