Flexible working is a key tool to help working dads achieve improved work / life balance and be the involved, active and present father that surveys tell us that they want to be.
Helping dads to communicate their needs and desires about work life balance is vital to move the conversation about flexible and part time working away from just being a female ‘issue’ to becoming a people issue.
When society and the workplace see flexible working and caring responsibilities as not just something that men want, but as something that men are supported to fulfil then this will drive benefits for everyone.
No longer will the only way to get ‘ahead’ be to be ‘all in’, fully committed to your job to the detriment of all else. When we take the time and effort to communicate with men, to give them a safe space to share what they really want we can to start to design work to fit modern society.
“Benefits” of Covid-19
Covid -19 and the associated lockdown measures have become, for many men, a massive experiment in remote and flexible working. One that has been embraced by many.
“I’ve loved being able to work from home full time…we have a six month old now so I get to see him during the day a bit, feed him lunch, always have bath time at 5.30pm… it’s been a positive in an otherwise pretty weird / horrid time.
As workplaces start to open up, parents everywhere are under pressure to juggle potentially competing demands of work and family but without the school and childcare facilities they depend upon opening at the same rate.
We are at an incredibly tense time for gender equality. Despite reports showing that men have doubled their involvement in childcare, the burden still falls unequally and we face a real danger that in many families, men will be back “at work” and women will be left juggling everything else.
What can business do?
Businesses can help by not just assuming that only women have caring responsibilities and by being aware that in spite of the benefits of lockdown working life, men may fear the career implications of pushing back and trying to maintain access to the significant benefits of flexible or remote working.
Encouraging men to return to the workplace while supporting women to work from home does nothing for equality and mental health and potentially drives a wedge between couples.
Research by Pregnant Then Screwed found that “75% of working mums have struggled to manage childcare and their paid work during the pandemic while 57% of believe it has damaged their career prospects.”
It’s incredibly important for working dads to continue to strive for the type of flexible working that has worked during lockdown and driven equality.
Here’s a helpful reminder of the type of benefits…
1. Spend More Time With Your Family.
Commuters are now facing an average 58-minute daily journey – the equivalent of 27 working days a year… Londoners take the longest to get to and from work: 1 hour and 21 minutes each day.
Leaving home early and returning early evening means if you have young children it’s likely you’ll hardly see them during the week. A work / life balance fail…
Through flexible working you can use the time you normally waste travelling to the office and spend more with your family. Maybe you want to do some school pick ups and drop offs. Flexible working is the key to unlock that allowing you to be there for the times that matter.
2. Less Stress
Crammed into trains (mask on), crawling through traffic, blood pressure rising, it’s no wonder commuting is one of the most stressful events in people’s lives.
Yes, some stress can be good for you, but nobody ever said that about the stress of commuting. Working from home can play a big part in reducing your overall stress levels simply by removing your daily commute.
‘Not only are long commutes bad for our health, but they can affect our ability to concentrate at work. That’s bad for productivity, resulting in a lose/lose situation for employers, employees and the whole economy.’
Work Wise UK Chief Executive Phil Flaxton
3. Women Wouldn’t Have To Be Flexible To Return To Work
When men more widely seek out, embrace and promote flexible working then it will become the norm.
Women wouldn’t then have to settle for work that pays less than they deserve to achieve the flexibility they want, because their partners would be working flexibly already.
- Work / family balance was the #1 challenge facing working parents.
- Women in particular also identified the ‘culture of inflexible work’.
- Flexible working was seen by both men and women as the #1 solution to these challenges.
4. Supportive “Power Couple” Relationships
Real men not only want to spend more time with their families, they understand and help with the mental load.
It’s not just about your quality time with your children – life is a partnership and your presence has to be more than getting home on time and making great memories at the weekend.
Your role doesn’t begin and end with money in the bank and feeling good about yourself because your kids love you and you get to work from home once a week.
It has to be about taking on the “burden” of life.
It’s about pulling your weight, not waiting to be asked, about managing at home as well as at work.
Get that wrong and you’ll be staring down the barrel of divorce
“I think it’s time you had a chat about this situation. Ffs we do not live in the 18th century! Seriously if you have to go out to work, then the balance within the home needs to be altered too. Atm my oh is ironing whilst I am doing other jobs. If he did not help out with the kids/ housework etc I would just down tools.”
5. Smarter Children
The benefits don’t begin and end with dad.
Child psychiatrist Dr Mike Shooter CBE is former director of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and author of Growing Pains: Making Sense Of Childhood
He says children whose dads actively engage with them will be smarter and more balanced.
“First of all, a hands-on father bolsters [a child], it inoculates them against the many much less fortunate role models that there are in society, which influences their development in terms of how they view themselves, the relationships they will form with other people and as parents in their own right.”
“Children were more likely to show behavioral problems if their fathers were overly involved psychologically in their careers… A father (who is) noticeably absent when he is on his digital device — was also linked with children having emotional and behavioral problems “
There you go, 5 great reasons why flexible working needs to stay. It’s up to everyone to create a new normal, but for men my message is simple – guys you’ve seen the benefits, now it’s time to celebrate father’s day by holding on to your flex and continuing to demonstrate “how to be a great dad AND have a great career.”
By Ian Dinwiddy, founder of Inspiring Dads