There are Benefits to Long Commutes

Long commutes feel like a slog, but there are benefits to sitting on a train and staring out the window everyday. Londoners have some of the longest commutes in Europe which has led to some neat research into the benefits of these long and regular journeys. On the way to and from work people are able to contemplate their work-life and have a clear separation between work and home. Another, more obvious, benefit is that people who take public transit to work are healthier than those who drive.

To find out more, Richard Patterson at Imperial College London analysed detailed data from the English National Travel Survey, allowing him to determine exactly how much exercise the average commuter gleans from their daily journey. He found that roughly a third of public transport commuters met the government’s recommendations of 30-minutes exercise a day, through their commute alone.

Patterson points out that governments could consider these benefits when they decide their funding for transport networks, since encouraging people to give up their cars and take a train or bus could end up having a real effect on public health. In the UK, for instance, he calculates that a 10% increase in the use of public transport could result in 1.2 million more people reaching the recommended levels of physical activity. “Some decisions, which may not seem to have much to do with health, can have these knock-on effects for people’s wellbeing,” he says.

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Want to Impress Your Colleagues? Be Honest With Yourself

Interview

Many people want to change how their coworkers or their boss views them in the workplace, and no matter the reason for wanting a change there are tons of suggestions on how to do so. Indeed the self help industry in the USA is worth $10 billion dollars! That’s a lot of desire for self-improvment in American offices. Here’s a tip to save you money: don’t buy those self-help shills and instead get some self-reflection. It turns out that being conscious of how those around and adding in some metacognition is all you need.

According to executive coach Joel Garfinkle — whose advice is geared more toward your professional relationships — if you’re trying to change the way your coworkers see you, pay close attention to how your behavior impacts them. “Start by being honest with yourself. Notice how your behavior affects those around you. How do people react to you in meetings? In the coffee room or at lunch? If clients aren’t returning your calls, perhaps your behavior is making them feel pressured or uncomfortable,” Garfinkle writes on his blog.

The idea here is that by being honest with yourself about the way you affect others, you can begin to make behavioral changes, like talking less and listening more. “If you’re the type who usually dominates the conversation in meetings or groups, try keeping absolutely quiet and taking notes for a change,” writes Garfinkle. “If you usually hang back and let others take the spotlight, write down some key points that are relevant to the topic being discussed and speak up.” According to Garfinkle, making these changes will slowly change your colleagues’ perception of you.

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Economists: Improve the Economy by Empowering Workers

economic chart

Attacks on unions isn’t anything new, even when workers are asking for safer conditions or a little job security. What is new is that economists are starting to realize that we need stronger worker groups to advocate for labour or the economy as a whole suffers. Over the last few decades we’ve witnessed the rise of massive corporations that bully governments and workers; inevitably this process will gut the productive parts of planet (with fantastic short-term gains!). So, if we want our economy to do well for decades on end we need to ensure that all people involved in it get a share of the benefits.

A complementary approach would be to increase workers’ power. Historically, this has been most effectively done by bringing more workers into unions. Across advanced economies, wage inequality tends to rise as the share of workers who are members of unions declines. A new paper examining detailed, historical data from America makes the point especially well. Henry Farber, Daniel Herbst, Ilyana Kuziemko and Mr Naidu find that the premium earned by union members in America has held remarkably constant during the post-war period. But in the 1950s and 1960s the expansion of unions brought in less-skilled workers, squeezing the wage distribution and shrinking inequality. Unions are not the only way to boost worker power. More radical ideas like a universal basic income—a welfare payment made to everyone regardless of work status—or a jobs guarantee, which extends the right to a government job paying a decent wage to everyone, would shift power to workers and force firms to work harder to retain employees.

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Productive Companies Include Workers on Their Board

Interview

Since the late 1970s (coinciding with the rise of neoliberalism) wages have stagnated while executive pay keeps rising. This has led to inequality being one of the largest issues facing companies and countries in the 21st century. Accordingly, people sick of neoliberalism have been looking into ways to address inequality and the subsequent economic stagnation. One solution is to have workers sit on the board of their employer. This results in better treatment of the workforce while providing more opportunity for growth in efficiencies within the company.

Research has found that the setup reduces worker turnover, boosts salaries and productivity, and supports income equity. Shareholder returns do suffer slightly, but researchers largely agree that tilting the flow of revenue back toward workers is a good thing.

It stands to reason that the concept holds a great deal of sway over the American public. The gulf between CEO and shareholder earnings and that of employees is often as extreme as 25 to one. Wages for regular workers have held largely stagnant over the last three decades, as executive salaries have ballooned. Bringing actual employees to the table where these decisions are made could serve to flatten the cliff between management and workers.

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Even More Research that Raising Minimum Wage is Good for Everyone

happy workers in a factory

Haters keep telling us that minimum wage is too high, which is really saying they would love free labour for private profits. Those haters are also not thinking about the economy at large. A new, massive, study on the impact of minimum wage concludes that minimum wage increases help people who aren’t currently being paid enough and that the benefits to that group cascade upwards on the economic ladder. Trickle down economics is a clear failure and trickle up economics looks rather effective!

The study is indeed impressive. Census researchers Kevin Rinz and John Voorheis used data from the bureau’s Annual Social and Economic Supplement, which surveys more than 75,000 households. The authors then link this data with administrative filings from the Social Security Administration on wages and track the changes between 1991 and 2013. The study stands out for covering such a large number of people over such an extended period.

“[R]aising the minimum wage increases earnings growth at the bottom of the distribution, and those effects persist and indeed grow in magnitude over several years,” the authors write. At the same time, there’s little indication that other people will lose their jobs as a result of the minimum wage—the outcome conservatives always warn about.

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