Flexible Working for Dads – Why it Matters, and Ways to Make it Happen
Published: 6 May 2020
Han-Son Lee is the founder of DaddiLife – a parenting website for dads and a community of over 150,000 Millennial Dads.
Raising a family is never easy. Without a doubt, there are happy days, days full of fun and excitement, but there are also days that pull us in all sorts of different directions.
In these unprecedented times, one of the most significant challenges that I hear about everyday from the DaddiLife community is being able to balance work and family time. For a modern generation of fathers who are far more active across their day to day parenting role, this matters more than ever. In many ways, as we all adjust to a new normal, it should give us pause for reflection about our future of work and flexible working.
Why flexibility Matters
Working Families’ recent Modern Families Index, as well as our own research from last year, The Millennial Dad at work, tells the same story – that millennial parents are getting busier and busier at work, and the time for real quality time with the family is somewhat on the wane.
There’s an odd equation across the UK at the moment that as a workforce we are working the longest hours in Europe, but also that the UK’s workforce has the lowest levels of productivity too.
Surely that’s an equation that’s screaming out for more flexible working.
Against a stereotype that ‘dads should just be at work’ we need to re-think dads’ role at home as well as work. There has been considerable research in recent times that back that up too.
- The benefits of involved, active fathers are now clearer: whether it’s the initial dad bonding, reading, or even singing, there are increasing pools of science that are showcasing how and why involved fathers are important as part of thriving families as a whole. Better flexibility at work can only enhance that for families all-round.
According to the London Economy, not only are there emotional challenges that crop from fatherlessness, but there are also economic issues to a society where fathers are absent.
- Equality at home – a well-balanced home needs physical and emotional input of both partners where there is such an arrangement. The more partners can coordinate in how they raise their children, the more a home remains peaceful and productive.
- Role modelling – just like children need their mother, so do they need their father. There are specific inputs of knowledge, wisdom, and maybe even skills that it’s important for fathers to role model and pass on to the next generation. Beyond parental tasks, parental play is also vital. So whether it’s park play or even getting the best dinosaur toys to bring to life their imaginations – being truly present is vital.
However, it’s also true to say that these unprecedented times through covid-19 are nothing like what us flexible working advocates have imagined as the nirvana of flexible working. That’s because of two things.
Firstly, most fathers I hear from in the DaddiLife community are telling me the same thing – that they are feeling in a no win situation right now. In trying to balance the home educating needs of their children, while at the same time trying to address the shifting needs of their teams, only manages to create more guilt either way. Some people are working in environments that don’t suit them
Secondly, it’s important to recognize those in the working population that do actually function better with some time in a physical space are also not benefiting from the new stringent needs to stay at home. It all adds up to exacerbating an already growing mental health issue.
6 Ways to Achieving better Flexible Working
So how can you make your work flexible enough for you to be available in line with the above? Here’s 6 things to consider whether you’re considering more flexible working post Covid-19 or anytime after that:
- Talk to Your Current Employer: to make a statutory request you must have worked with the organization for at least 26 weeks before making a request, and in current UK law, you can only make one request per year. However that’s not to say that you can’t come to an arrangement outside of that by engaging directly with your employer. The first step is to make it clear that you want to perform at work, and why flexible working will provide that.
- Discuss it with Your Partner: It’s vital to discuss the plan with your partner. How will this impact the parenting schedule, what new ways of working (at work and home) will it both open and close? It’s important to be a team on this.
- Search for Flexible Jobs: There are increasingly lots of flexible job sites, and a lot of flexible jobs too in the form of job shares, freelancing, or part-time employment. That’s not to say you should leave your current employer, but it’s always good to know the wider options out there before completing your plan.
- Mark your ‘successes’: Sometimes the problem is not with where you work but with how you plan your working hours. If your employer allows you to have a flexible schedule as long as you work the minimum hours per day or week, you can plan your routine around your family so that you can maximize your input both at home and at work. It’s also important to note what extra successes this period of remote working may have created – a new plan? A new service? All of these are important markers of success.
- Consider your work ‘environment’: With flexible working, the most significant bit is being disciplined enough to meet deadlines. A home office may help in such a case. You will be able to have your privacy when working and still be within reach when needed at home. Have a think about any changes to your home that can make this better.
- Work to a Doable Schedule: Finally, having a schedule that works should mean one that considers time for rest as well. If your juggle between home and work is getting you too tired, then both areas will be affected. Make sure you have some time for yourself as well to breathe, relax and refuel.
Work is an important part of your life, but your presence as a father is as essential. Flexible working is possible, and it’s beneficial to both the family and the dad.