Blog from Jill Keegan: Supporting equalities and wellbeing in the workplace

Outside the Box are proud to be celebrating Living Wage Week. Being part of the real Living Wage movement allows us to demonstrate that we value our staff team. It also provides us with the opportunity to encourage other employers to focus on work equalities.

Women and Mums have been disproportionately affected by Covid so it’s crucial we support them and their families. Our project Mums Returning to Work helps employers embed equalities practice and take a holistic approach to wellbeing, while linking to the benefits of becoming a real Living Wage employer.

It’s much easier to start conversations, when staff already feel valued and trusted. Paying a real Living Wage is one aspect of how Outside the Box demonstrate that value and trust and helps us build a workplace culture centred on wellbeing.

Anne Connor, Chief Executive said:

“For us, being a Living Wage employer is part of being fair to both our employees and showing to the wider community that this issue matters. Being reassured about the level of pay helps the wellbeing of our staff, and I am sure this is shared for many others working for Living Wage employers.”

Recently, a co-worker told us she’d like to walk on the beach during daylight hours and then work a bit later. We thought this was a great idea and actively encourage all staff to share these kinds of ideas for how work could be better for all of us. We are workers who are also parents, carers, disabled people, and flexible working and the real Living Wage make it possible for us to do our best work and balance our time with caring responsibilities and wellbeing.

These links may be less obvious, but our workplace policies and practices around menopause, mental health and maternity all connect to being a Living Wage Employer. Some topics can be seen as difficult to talk about at work but we know that openly talking about how we’re doing and what our stresses are makes a huge difference. From adapting to home working to pregnancy, welcoming new babies into the world (and the Outside the Box family!) and motherhood, to feeling low as the weather gets colder, there’s space to talk about whatever we’re experiencing.

Part of why Mums Returning to Work makes such an impact is this approach of valuing and listening to people. It builds on our experience of what we need and what makes a workplace inclusive and supportive. So it makes complete sense for us to be a Living Wage workplace – all workers want to be respected and get paid fairly!

Alison, the owner of ACE Place nursery in Glasgow, a workplace which took part in our Mum-Friendly Workplace training, said:

“We have lots of initiatives that allow staff to see that we want to keep them and keep them motivated. We’re a real Living Wage employer, which is rare in this industry. But I wanted to show that we value our staff and for parents to see that too.”

We’re proud of being a Living Wage employer and of Mums Returning to Work – both show the importance of equality and care. Many roles aren’t valued by employers or society, from key work to other caring roles and beyond, and we think it’s time for a cultural shift that centres equality in the world of work. Hearing from people about working with Mum-Friendly and Living Wage employers and about working in unfair conditions makes this need clear.

Some of our workers who are Mums have shared their stories about Mums’ workplace rights and wellbeing during lockdown and we’ve been learning from the diverse range of families we work with about their work challenges this year. Earlier in the pandemic, we asked pregnant women and Mums about their experiences of wellbeing and work – many highlighted the large role that employers play in harming or supporting maternal wellbeing. Our Lockdown wellbeing video and our wellbeing video in BSL share the impact that workplace policies and culture has on Mums – there’s a long way to go!

Workers and workplaces can make a change – we can respect and care for each other and employers can take simple, but meaningful, steps. There are many ways to build a better working culture – from becoming a certified Mum-Friendly Workplace  to starting conversations on how to be more inclusive, to joining the Living Wage movement!

Christine, our Community Worker, shared the impact the real Living Wage has on her life:

“Working for an employer who not only pays the living wage but also looks out for the wellbeing of its employees during these challenging times has been a huge relief not only financially with increased food and energy bills due to everyone being at home, but also the understanding that people are trying to cope with a new way of working which also includes home schooling kids.”

And as an employer, why wouldn’t you want your employees to feel valued, have space to care for themselves and people in their lives, and take walks to the beach on their lunch breaks?

Sharing is caring!