Don’t ignore the gendered happiness gap

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Last year data showed that on average women were 5% less happy at work, but this year the picture is more positive

In 2018 it was difficult to not be aware of the furore surrounding women’s pay. Corporations and business leaders have rightly been lambasted for paying women less for doing the same job, with worldwide marches and protests taking place against companies who pay men more.

But what about measuring aspects of work other than pay? How about employee happiness? Should businesses measure the happiness of their workers? What differences would we find between men and women? Through surveys on my platform, Engaging Works, we can measure the world’s workplace happiness and, in doing so, we have identified ‘the gender work-happiness gap’.

Last year our data showed that on average women were 5% less happy at work than their male counterparts. This was just as the #MeToo campaign was underway and in the wake of allegations about Harvey Weinstein’s predatory actions.

However, this year’s data has been surprisingly positive. Although by the narrowest of margins, women scored themselves happier at work than men overall. This is a cause for celebration but also a wake-up call for businesses to understand the importance of workplace happiness and to question whether they have a gender work-happiness gap.

The first step is identifying whether a business does or does not have a gap. If organisations are willing to identify and measure the workplace happiness of their employees then there are some clear steps for bridging this happiness gap if it exists.

For more than three decades I worked for the John Lewis Partnership whose overarching purpose was the happiness of its employees. Purpose wasn’t about maximising shareholder returns or being customer-centric, but putting employee wellbeing first.

In making the entire workforce more happy you can address the gender work-happiness gap. To address employee happiness you need to focus on six steps:

  1. Reward and recognition. If you’re not paying a fair salary no amount of recognition will be enough. Well thought-out reward and recognition initiatives, coupled with a conductive working environment, help create sustainable long-term teams and businesses that are beneficial to employees.
  2. Adequate information-sharing. Not sharing information makes employees feel unimportant and happiness is eroded. A culture where information is freely available is fundamental to a successful business.
  3. Empowerment is vital for a happy and engaged workforce. This can be achieved by making them a part of the key decision-making processes and listening to their ideas.
  4. Wellbeing must be addressed if businesses are to improve happiness levels. Attending to the physical, emotional and financial wellbeing of employees will have its rewards. Wellbeing leads to improved productivity, lower levels of stress and higher levels of motivation.
  5. Instil pride. Employees who love what they do and feel proud of where they work will tell others about it. If people feel that they are making a difference it will leave them more fulfilled.
  6. Job satisfaction. Personal development and a good relationship with line managers are key elements of being satisfied at work and being happy in the job.

Businesses need to embrace these six steps and in doing so they will enrich the workplace and create happier employees, which will ultimately reduce the gender work-happiness gap.

I must stress that data from the platform wasn’t all positive when it came to women in the workplace. Women scored low on feeling empowered in the workplace. Reward was also rated lower by women compared to their male counterparts – something we see played out in the gender pay gap.

But organisations should also wake up to the ‘gender work-happiness gap’. If they measured their levels of workplace happiness and were aware of its gender gap then we would see higher levels of engagement and productivity overall.

Mark Price is founder of Engaging Works

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