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Business And Careers Flexible Working

A Wider Understanding Of Dads And Flexible Working

We have been busy talking to dads and discussing their experiences of working and parenting life through lockdown. Are there positives to come out of this pandemic. What are the lessons learned? What are dads’ experiences of flexible working?

Meet Simon Gregory Managing Partner at GPS Return

I normally explain to people what I do by saying “I run a recruitment business that specialises in helping parents return to work”. What follows is usually an engaging discussion about how, where, what etc. Then that person introduces me to another by saying “he helps mums go back to work”. I’m sure I said “parents”, what happened to the dads?

Dads Face Different Challenges

At GPS Return we work with professionals returning to work, regardless of the circumstances. 95% of them are parents and 95% of them are mums. However, we are seeing more dads reach out to us looking to return to work. But, the challenges they face are quite different. 

David Took 12 Months Out To Be A Full Time Parent

A simple example of this is David, an experienced senior sales manager who took 12 months out to be a full-time parent. On his return to work, as a lot of people do, he reached out to an ex-boss…  “I see your balls have grown back then”. Needless to say, David didn’t go back to work for that particular boss. Sadly the perception that it is the dad’s job to ‘bring home the bacon’ and the mum’s job to look after the children persist. 

Sadly, the fear of being ridiculed for putting family first is stopping many Dads from asking for flexibility. But not Charles. We worked with Charles who, whilst still working, was trying to find a job that offered flexibility so he could be more present at home. He had put in a flexible work request. The result was he could leave work an hour earlier on a Friday. Even though a female colleague in a similar role was allowed to reduce her hours and work some of those hours from home. 

Charles Was Told To ‘Grow A Thick Skin’

What made it worse was that every Friday when Charles left the office early he was met with ‘banter’. “Taking another half-day are you?” and “Have a good weekend, Thumbprint!”. It became so normal that even the Intern had a go. But because Charles was Charles his manager said he should ‘grow a thicker skin’. His HR said ‘it’s just banter so ignore it’.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying dads find it harder than mums. But, we do face different challenges that are often hard to cope with. When things get tough, men are expected to man up and deal with it.

Workplace Evolution

But, as the workplace has been forced to evolve with more people working flexibly, there is now a wider understanding. This understanding comes from both businesses and individuals, of the benefits that it can bring to business and home life. Companies are reassessing whether they need large offices and whether people need to be in the office every day. Staff are wondering if they can cope with a full-time job whilst the kids are on school holidays.

Deeper than that though, people we’re speaking to are re-thinking home and work. Rather than having one parent working 60hrs per week and one full-time parent, why not have both parents working a combination of reduced hours and remote working. This way both can develop a career and spend quality time with the family? 

David and Charles both found opportunities. This time with organisations that valued their skills and experience and offered them the flexibility they were looking for. In other words, organisations that enabled them to be both the parent and the professionals they wanted to be.

Read more stories of dad’s in lockdown here;

Dads and the opportunities to come from the pandemic

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Flexible Working

How Dads Can Get More Flexibility At Work?

Requesting Flexible Working

What is a dad to do if his employer does not have a culture that accepts men have families and caring responsibilities outside of the workplace? While times are changing, this is still a major issue. It’s not always an easy one to address because it can involve full-scale cultural change, but I’ve put forward a few ideas that fathers in the workplace may find helpful.

It Starts With The Application Process

Let’s start at the very beginning. Before you even apply for a job, look closely at the job advert. Does it make any mention about flexible working being encouraged? Prior to completing the application form, quiz the recruitment consultant about the company’s family friendly policies or call the HR department and have a quick chat.

Ask if the organsation pays paternity and maternity leave benefits at the same rate. Ask if it has written shared parental leave and paternity leave policies. If the answer to either of these questions is “no” then it’s a big warning sign.

I’ll tell you a story to demonstrate my point. I once went for a job interview and asked what benefits came with the job. I was being sly and testing the culture of the organisation. My eldest daughter was only one year old at the time and I was hoping the manager heading the panel would tell me about childcare vouchers or mention some family-friendly benefit or policy.

Instead he looked at his colleague, turned back to me and said: “You get a salary.”

It was a dreadful, condescending answer. It was immediately clear to me this manager was a dinosaur and that I could expect nothing in terms of balancing work and family. I wasn’t too upset when I didn’t get the job!

Flexible Working And Shared Parental Leave (SPL) Are Your Legal Right.

Do not think your employer is doing you a favour by agreeing to your request for SPL or flexible working. A lot of people, especially men, make this mistake. Remember, SPL is your legal right. Your right to request flexible working is also enshrined in law.

Be polite and put forward a strong business case. Look around your organisation and highlight examples where other people have worked flexibly or taken SPL. If a precedent has been set, it’s hard for your employer to turn you down.

It may also be that you’re merely the first man to ask for SPL or flexible working. You may feel nervous but discover that you’re blazing a trail and knocking at an open door!

Seek Support From Your Trade Union

If you are a trade union member and your workplace recognises your union, speak to your union representative. Managers are usually reluctant to pick fights with unions, especially over issues like SPL or flexible working which have a legal framework behind them.

Approaching things this way also means you are not on your own. You’ll have support from an organisation used to dealing with employee / employer disputes and successfully mediating between them.

Engage With Any Women’s Groups

If you are stuck with a management team that isn’t interested in your flexible working request or is doing all it can to put you off applying for SPL; seek help from any women’s groups within the workplace.

If there isn’t a women’s interest group (they are more common among big employers) try and find someone on the Staff Council or staff consultative body with an interest in issues affecting women in the workplace.

This may not sound like an obvious thing to do, but these groups can be incredibly powerful allies. They are in a strong position to point out to management that failing to provide male employees the same benefits and rights as women has a negative impact on both genders.

I’ll give you an example. I know of a FTSE 100 company that introduced equal paternity leave and pay because its women’s group campaigned for it. The group members recognised it was unfair men didn’t have the same rights and spoke up for their male colleagues. The result was a huge uptake in men taking SPL.

Be Clear About What You Are Requesting

Be clear about what you are requesting. If you are requesting to work from home two days a week, say so. If you plan to take four months SPL starting in March, make that clear. Your employer is much more likely to agree to a clear request as it’s easier form them to plan accordingly.

If you simply request to work flexibly or say you want to take SPL but you’re not sure what date you wish to take it from or for how long for, you can’t be too surprised if the answer comes back as a “no.” After all, how is an employer supposed to plan for such circumstances?

One other piece of advice is be flexible. You might want to work from home two days a week. But, what if your employer looks at your request and offers you three days home working every fortnight? Could you make that work? Be prepared to compromise as both you and your employer have different agendas.

Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit

Finally, if you think your employer might be receptive to the idea, introduce them to the Fathers in the Workplace Toolkit. This free resource is put together by researchers from the University of Birmingham.

It’s aim was to give employers and HR professionals easy-to-implement ideas that could make a workplace more father-friendly. You can read about it yourself – Fathers In The Workplace Toolkit. It suggests every employer should have a Fatherhood Champion. This would be someone who works flexibly and can be consulted about their experiences and explain its importance. It also says workplace parenting groups should be inclusive of fathers and suggests employees with children should have a ‘parenting passport.’ This is a document outlining a staff member’s home situation, shared privately between managers. It will help managers understand the needs of staff as they progress through an organisation.

Be Brave

We’ve all been in the position of asking for something from a boss, knowing the answer might not be the one we want. Employers have years of experience dealing with mums who work flexibly or go on extended leave following the birth of a child.

It’s a relatively new thing for both employers and employees when a man asks for SPL or to work flexibly. The only way it can be normalised is if men ask for SPL or flexi-working. The culture of your organisation may not have caught up with the times. The onus is on us men to bring about that change so be brave and speak to your boss. Oh, one final thing, very best of luck!

Interested in how covid is changing our working culture then you may want to read – Changes To Working Culture During Lockdown

Maybe you’d like to hear more about our DaddyJobs author John Adams.

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Flexible Working

Changes To Working Culture During Lockdown

When Coronavirus hit and lockdown was introduced, I made a prediction. I said there would be numerous academic studies into how it would impact on children, home life and working culture. The impact of the lockdown was the instant introduction of remote working for huge swathes of the workforce combined with homeschooling.

It turns out my prediction was bang on. I know of three academic studies that are already underway.

The academics will come to their own conclusions. I have some of my own thoughts as to how home working over recent months has been different to home working pre COVID-19 and what the long term impact may be.

Homeschooling Has Made It Tough

Let me just get right in there with the most obvious point. No one in their right mind would attempt to homeschool children. Especially primary school children, while also trying to do the day job!

Speaking from my own experience, this has been incredibly tough. After three months of trying to homeschool and work from home, I will freely admit I was totally drained. Natalie Costa, a confidence coach who works with children and founder of PowerThoughts, put it to me very bluntly: “This is not ‘homeschooling’ that we’re doing as that is a choice. At the moment we are trying to manage and survive in a crisis, so be kind to yourself.”

I have worked from home for a few years now. The absence of school and childcare options means that what we’ve experienced over recent months has not been a typical home working experience at all.

Dads Are Doing More Childcare

According to the charity the Fatherhood Institute, it turns out dads are doing lots more childcare. The charity claims the amount of unpaid childcare done by fathers has rocketed up by 58% in just two months. Yes, mums are still doing more than dads, but this is an enormous step in the right direction.

No Commute = More Work Getting Done

I am basing this claim on personal experience, but without the commute, are workers more productive?

I take my wife as an example. She has been home working for months and most days she logs on by half seven in the morning. She’d normally be on a train at that time of day but instead she works. This surely is a positive change to our working culture.

The other huge benefit of this has been environmental. While traffic levels seem to have crept back up, the lack of cars clogging up the roads has been very noticeable, not to mention the lack of aircraft. Have we all got used to using Zoom and Microsoft Teams instead of doing lots of avoidable business travel to meet people face to face? I’d like to think so.

What Will The Future Hold For Our Working Culture?

In addition many of us are dedicating more time to exercise. There is also evidence that people are eating more healthily. But what do I think the long-term impact of lockdown will be?

There is already evidence of this. Both DaddyJobs.co.uk and LinkedIn are seeing more people applying for flexible roles. Crucially, employers are increasingly advertising rules as flexible, so it seems everyone is seeing the benefits.

Remote and flexible working was unthinkable by some employers and considered impossible in some industries. The past few months have proven that’s not the case.

I don’t think we’re going to see the end of office life. But I think it’ll be much more common for people to work from home two or three days a week. Or that the office will become somewhere you visit once a fortnight. What I’m hearing from various people is that they like home working, but they also like the social aspect of the office environment. So I think a mix of the two is highly likely.

Following on from this, flexible working will be much more accepted as the norm for men. A man’s request for flexible working has historically been twice as likely to be rejected as a woman’s. With both genders being forced to work flexibly, I very much hope that mindset has been consigned to history.

With men working remotely, we’ll hopefully also see greater gender equality both at home and within workplaces.

I am hopeful for the future. I think there’s a risk we could slide back to old ways of working, but I very much hope flexible working stays the norm for the majority of employees. A permanent positive change to our working culture is long overdue.

Categories
Flexible Working

Why DaddyJobs.co.uk Has Re-launched At The Right Time

I am so excited to have joined the DaddyJobs.co.uk team. I have a long and personal interest in promoting flexible working and I think the website has re-launched at just the right time. 

Before I get into why I think DaddyJobs.co.uk has re-launched at the perfect time, allow me to introduce myself and explain why I am so interested in flexible working. It’s a long and personal story, but I’ll give you the highlights.

My Flexible Working Story

Way back in 2011 I was your typical, full-time working dad. My wife and I had the one young daughter at the time called Helen (our second daughter, Izzy, arrived a year later).

My employer gave me a certain degree of flexibility, but I didn’t feel I could properly balance work and family. Things came to a head when I was told it had been noticed I had missed a few meetings that had been put in my diary  when I would typically be on the nursery run (either very first thing in the morning or very late in the afternoon).

I worked in a department of 80 people yet I could count the married people on the fingers of one hand and even fewer had children. My face didn’t fit any longer, so I suggested to my wife that I leave full-time work, reduce Helen’s nursery hours and concentrate on looking after our daughter and running the family home. 

When I raised this with Mrs Adams, it didn’t get the warmest reception. We had a huge row in Pizza Express in central Glasgow. After a short while she came round to the idea and we haven’t looked back.

I initially took a part-time job with a local charity a few rungs down the career ladder. When Helen started school, I needed even greater flexibility so even that job became unviable.

This is where my career path, until this point in a terminal, downward spiral, took an interesting turn. For a few years I had been writing a blog called Dadbloguk.com. It followed my journey as a man who ran the household and “held the babies.”

I was now a stay at home dad with no income, but I did have a well-established blog. I wanted to contribute financially to the family and so the natural thing to do was to try and make money from Dadbloguk.com and so that’s what I did.

Fast forward to 2020 and blogging has taken me everywhere from Canada to Australia and I’ve interviewed Hollywood greats including Michael Douglas and Steve Carell. I won Best Dad Blog at the 2019 Online Influence Awards and Dadbloguk sits at No1 on the Vuelio Top UK Daddy Blogger list.

A real highlight happened just a few weeks ago when I was appointed a LinkedIn Changemaker. I am one of seven people LinkedIn has chosen to promote change in the modern workplace. Recognising the issues I had in the past, I am campaigning to make flexible working more widely available to mums, dads and carers.

I don’t tell you any of this to boast, but to make a point. Working for myself is hard, very hard. It would be much easier to have an employer and everything that comes with it: Sick pay, holiday pay, employer pension contributions and so on.

Instead I have withdrawn from the workforce. The skills and experience I have, I am keeping to myself by working for my own company and fitting my work around my family commitments. My skills and experience have not been available to an employer for years because I could not get the flexibility I felt I needed to balance work and family.

Flexible Working Is For Women And Men

The other point I’d make is that I am both a man and Generation X. When most people think of flexible working, they associate it with mums or women with caring responsibilities.

As for being Gen X, I stand out for leaving the workforce. It’s not unheard of for men of my age to leave a job because of a lack of flexibility, but it is rare.  It’s a different picture with younger men. 

Younger guys will think nothing of leaving a job if they can’t balance work and family. According to the DaddiLife Millennial Dad at Work report, a third of Millennial men left their job within a year of becoming a father because it didn’t offer the flexibility they wanted, while a further third were actively looking for a new job.

That is the great thing about DaddyJobs.co.uk. There is increasing demand from men for flexible working. It is meeting the needs of men who actively want to balance work and family life. 

The Impact of COVID-19

I’ve somehow got this far without mentioning the seismic impact of COVID-19!  Over recent months huge numbers of men have been working from home. 

The signs are that flexible, remote working could be here to stay for two reasons. Firstly, many employers simply cannot have all their employees back in the workplace because of social distancing guidelines. Secondly, everyone’s got used to working from home and very few people want to go back to the office full time.

I think DaddyJobs.co.uk has re-launched at just the right time to capitalise on this. Men increasingly want flexible working and COVID-19 has massively shifted a whole chunk of the workforce in that direction. 

In the months to come I look forward to exploring the various issues men face when wanting to work flexibly. I hope to encourage more reluctant men to accept that flexible working is ideal for them and their families. 

Finally and most importantly, I wish you the very best with your job hunt.