Gender pay gap + Thomas Jefferson’s swivel chair + The creative office

Insight_twitter_logo_2In this week’s Newsletter; Mark Eltringham describes Thomas Jefferson as an early pioneer of what we now call wellness; and explains why we shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of form in our quest for function. More global organisations than ever offer parental leave rights to workers; yet research shows that the gender pay gap widens more for women with children; but a futurist predicts the UK gender gap will finally close by 2045. Birmingham reaches half a million square feet in office take-up so far this year; and managers and employees in creative sector disagree on the definition of a creative office. A study finds that people respond to stress in strikingly different ways; and evidence that multi-generational team working reaps rewards. Download our new Briefing, produced in partnership with Boss Design on the link between culture and workplace strategy and design; visit our new events page, follow us on Twitter and join our LinkedIn Group to discuss these and other stories.

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How Thomas Jefferson came to invent the swivel chair and laptop

MTE5NDg0MDU1MDEwMjQ4MjA3In 1775, Thomas Jefferson was a busy man. As part of the Committee of Five men and at the tender age of 33, he had been charged with drafting the Declaration of Independence that was to be presented to Congress the following Summer. By all accounts, Jefferson was a self-contained and self-sufficient man and, like most great people, a mass of contradictions. Christopher Hitchens described him in 2005 as ‘a revolutionary who above all believed in order’. Hitchens also describes Jefferson as an early pioneer of what we now call wellness, reflecting that Jefferson believed – unlike Hitchens himself – that ‘a true philosopher ought to spend as much time in exercise and labour as he did with books and papers. He should emulate the balance and symmetry of nature. He should be careful about what he put into his system’. It is in light of this that we should not be surprised that Jefferson was the man who took time out from his world altering work to invent the swivel chair.

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Bridging the generation gap is the key to a happier workforce

Mult-generational workersPeople who work in multigenerational teams are much more engaged and likely to deliver higher levels of customer service a new report suggests. In a survey of over 32,000 of McDonald’s own UK employees, their people who work with a cross-section of ages registered a 10 percent increase in happiness levels compared to those who work with their peer group. With the GCSE results just in, the fast food retailer wanted to gauge attitudes among potential future employees, so McDonald’s UK commissioned a census of 5,000 people representing each of the five working generations. It revealed that adults of all ages are united in wanting to be part of a multigenerational workforce. In fact, the opportunity to work with people of different ages was the top priority for more than half of all respondents (58 percent) and this factor was important for older people born between 1900 and 1964 (67 percent), as well as 16-year olds (57 percent).

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Research suggests individual responses to stress at work vary widely

Stress is relativeNo matter how compelling the evidence on the impact of stress at work there are always individuals who dismiss the very idea as self-indulgence. New research suggests this isn’t down to lack of empathy but simply because some people just don’t experience stress the same as others. The survey by the Deloitte Greenhouse Experience team found statistically significant variation in how respondents react to stressors which indicates that workplace stress is relative and not everyone experiences stress in the same way or to the same degree. The majority of respondents reported modest levels of stress. Fourteen percent reported being stressed only rarely and 57 percent reported being stressed sometimes, while 26 percent reported being stressed often, and 3 percent reported being always stressed. Different scenarios were also mooted to identify stress triggers. Making mistakes topped the list of stressors, with 82 percent of respondents indicating errors caused stress.

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More organisations worldwide offering parental leave rights to employees

parental leaveDespite the complexities of parental leave legislation, a  growing number of organisations worldwide are making the benefit available to their workforce, according to the new Global Parental Leave report from human resources consultancy Mercer. According to the study – which is behind a paywall – more than one third of organisations have one centralised global policy. Around 38 percent provide paid paternity leave above the statutory minimum and several countries mandate a parental leave programme that may be used by either parent or carers. A growing number of organisations have extended the right to part time employees and see it as a valuable tool for attracting and retaining talent regardless of the gender or contract of employees. While almost two-thirds (64 percent) of companies provide maternity leave for only the birth mother, 24 percent of companies provide this leave to a primary caregiver.

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We shouldn’t lose sight of the importance of form in our quest for function

Tom Dixon Workplace DesignThe enduring struggle to improve the working conditions and performance of people through the design and management of workplaces carries more than a whiff of the Enlightenment, a period in which pure reason was seen by its proponenst as more than enough to convince the world of the ways in which we could improve the human condition. It’s a battle that was won in some ways but which continues to endure to this day, as you can tell from the very existence of the latter day evangelists of reason such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris. Yet one of the issues with arguments based on pure reason is that they leave gaps regarding abstract notions such as love and beauty. When it comes to workplace design the idea of beauty seems pretty important. Yet the very notion that an attractive workplace will make people happier and more productive seems to assume that we can agree on what is attractive in the first place.

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Futurist says UK gender pay gap will close much earlier than predicted

Gender pay gapFollowing the latest report that shows that the gender pay gap is still wide open comes claims that in the UK, the gap will close within the next 30 years. That’s the view anyway of futurist, trend forecaster and journalist, James Wallman. While the World Economic Forum believes that the world-wide gender pay gap won’t close by 2133, Wallman paints a more positive picture, forecasting the UK pay gap will actually close much sooner — by 2045. His reasoning is that it’s far harder to hide wage disparity in an age of data digitisation, meaning companies are compelled to be transparent. There is manifest political will behind pay parity, with new legislation meaning that by 2018 all companies with more than 250 employees will have to publish their gender pay gap data. And he argues there are numerous economic imperatives to get women working; if the same proportion of women worked in Britain as in Sweden, it would add £170bn to the UK economy and boost GDP by 9 percent.

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Nearly three quarters of UK staff say their workplace is a health hazard

Communicating safety at workPersonal injury lawyers may have helped fuel the UK’s overzealous health and safety culture, but the truth is that their services are often called for to challenge negligent employers. Now a new piece of research by Hayward Baker claims that many employees are not only stuck in unsafe workplaces but with unsanitary working conditions, which is putting their health at risk. The research into over a thousand workers on the conditions of Britain’s offices, shops, factories, warehouses and building sites found that 69 percent believe their workplace to be a health hazard. The study revealed 35 percent of working Brits have picked up an illness from their place of work – with 18 percent claiming to have been struck down with food poisoning or caught a stomach bug because of dirty conditions.  A further 39 percent have suffered an injury at work – with two in ten (20 percent) having been to hospital due to a work-related illness or injury.

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Nearly half of employees work unpaid extra hours to cope with workloads

Unpaid workNearly half of working parents in the UK put in unpaid extra hours to keep up with workloads and a third believe that overtime is now an ingrained part of workplace culture, according to a study by pressure group Working Families. The results were announced on the day the group announced details of this year’s National Work-Life Week which will encourage organisations to explore agile and flexible working. The report claims that 27 percent of people believe their line manager expects them to work extra hours, 33 percent believe that unpaid overtime is part of their workplace culture and 42 percent work extra hours to deal with workloads. Sarah Jackson, CEO of Working Families, said: “In the UK we have some of the longest working hours in Europe, with more than one in 10 employees putting in more than 50 hours each week. But success is about productivity, not impressive timesheets, so it’s worrying that our survey showed many parents feel a cultural pressure, or direct pressure from their manager, to stay late.”

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US Millennials ‘martyred’ behaviour helps drive culture of presenteeism

Millennial presenteeismAs the school holidays draw to a close, those Brits who’ve enjoyed their annual two-week holiday break will probably have squirreled away some days to take them through to the end of the year. Not so easy for the average US worker who earns on average just ten paid vacation days per annum, for each year of service. According to a survey carried out last year, many Americans even fail to take that allocated leave for fear of being seen as slacking. And now a new piece of research claims that far from breaking this tradition of presenteeism, US Millennial workers are the most likely generation to forfeit time off, even though they earn the least amount of vacation days. These findings, from Project: Time Off’s new report, The Work Martyr’s Cautionary Tale: How the Millennial Experience Will Define America’s Vacation Culture suggest that Millennials stay at work because they feel more fear and greater guilt about taking time away from the office than any other generation.

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