Much more than a fruit bowl in the staffroom
Today, the Living Wage Foundation has announced the new rate for the national Real Living Wage* in the UK. Liz Zeidler, CTP’s Chief Executive reflects on how money, time, purpose and culture affect the quality of the jobs we do and the lives we lead as a result.
There is a vast industry around the concept of ‘wellbeing at work’. From lunchtime yoga to private healthcare, flexible working hours to reward schemes for healthy eating, there seem to be endless ways big businesses are vying to attract the best employees. By contrast, we see an alarming growth in the ‘working poor’ and a mental health crisis partly fuelled by the surging financial and time pressure that working people face.
So what does ‘wellbeing at work’ mean, and how does it fit into a vision for a healthier, fairer society?
While money may not buy you happiness, a lack of it can certainly lead to a whole lot of misery. The stark reality is that many people work fulltime and still cannot afford to comfortably house and feed their families. This is a disgrace for a so-called ‘advanced economy’. There is nothing new or advanced about undervaluing workers and paying them the very least that the owners of land, property and power can get away with. This has been going on throughout history.
What we value is integral to who we are, and therefore what we put a value on says much about our integrity. In supermarkets the ‘value’ range mostly signals which producers and workers we value least. The fact that we have a national minimum wage that is lower than the National Living Wage says all we need to know about how little we value many of the hardest workers in the land. To have anyone on less than a living wage is like having anything in a supermarket that is not ‘fairly traded’. Instead of fair trade products or organic food, we should mark all other supermarket aisles as having ‘unfairly traded products’ and ‘artificially chemically enhanced’ food.
So too with wages. At CTP we applaud the Living Wage Foundation in the important work they do, and are proud to have the Living Wage badge against our name. But the real success would be if they were no longer required, because the idea of paying an unlivable wage was unthinkable. Yet too many, particularly big businesses, tell us this is unaffordable.
But affordability is about priorities and – again – what we value. Over the past few years, real wages have plummeted as inflation and the cost of living have soared, while executive pay, dividends and bonuses are at an all-time high. When it comes to pay and ‘good jobs’, it is not just about paying a living wage, it is also about a company’s salary ratio – the difference between the bottom and top salaries paid within a business.
There are some brilliant campaigns that call out companies with eye-watering salary ratios – often between 50:1 and 150:1. At CTP we are committed to no more than a 3:1 ratio, meaning that the Chief Executive will never earn more than three times the wage of the most junior member of staff. It is a great check and balance for an organisation to ensure equity and recognise the true value each team member brings.
‘The decision to go to a 4-day week has paid itself back by the bucketload’
Beyond paying enough for a decent life, there are other foundations for delivering a ‘good job’ that provides true wellbeing at work. We, like a growing number of organisations, are 4-day-week employers. This is another initiative that is often seen as ‘unaffordable’, but is very much dependent on what you put true value on. At CTP, instead of having KPIs we work towards ‘JPIs’. We have Joy, Profit and Impact targets for the organisation as a whole and for ourselves as team members –
- JOY – how are we delivering wellbeing, satisfaction and purpose through our work, for ourselves, each other and every one of our clients and stakeholders?
- PROFIT – how are we ensuring the organisation has enough resources to sustain itself, provide a decent level of income and security for its employees and enough to invest back into the vital work we do now and into the future?
- IMPACT – are we making the right choices in the work we do, so that we can make the biggest contribution possible to delivering a more equitable and sustainable world?
When you look through the JPI lens, the decision to go to a 4-day working week was very easy and has, in just a few years, paid itself back by the bucketload. We have more rested, loyal and happier staff, with more time with their loved ones and to play an active part in their communities. Those colleagues are brighter and more energised at work, so they can give even better value for money for clients, who recommend us and flow more resources back to the organisation, multiplying our positive impact. The virtuous circles go on.
So organisational decision-making becomes a very different task when joy (or wellbeing at work) is a key target, and when you make more visible, the win-wins such valuable decisions can deliver.
We spend most of the day, through most of our lives, at work. That work should, can and must pay a truly living wage, give space for family, friends and a life beyond its office walls, and provide a sense of purpose to those hours invested throughout our lives. Society needs more ‘good jobs’, and we will only get there if we start demanding it today.
Liz Zeidler, Chief Executive
CTP offers ways to measure wellbeing at work through our leading Pulse tool, ways to embed better working practices through our consultancy, and to understand the wider social importance of ‘good jobs’ through our Thriving Places Index. If you’d like to know more about any of these things get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org