Flexible working should be for dads too

dadBy Han-Son Lee, Founder, Daddilife

Becoming a dad is one of the happiest moments in a man's life. And it’s also the time we start to ask ourselves the question about what really matters: how can I balance work with my new family? As we come into winter, the time we’re spending with the kids outdoors; building fires, camping with the kids, seeing Santa (he’s real you know), all become sparks for thinking about a new way of working, perhaps even a new way of living.

But, and we should be honest with ourselves here, men aren’t always very good at being vulnerable at work. So we sometimes struggle with questions such as; What will ‘the team’ think if I want to work differently? What will the boss say? Am I even allowed to think this way?

When we asked over 2,000 working dads about their experiences, the insights were profound:

  • Only 56% believe that fathers were treated equally to mothers in their workplaces.
  • 45% of working fathers regularly experience tension from their employer when trying to balance work and family life demonstrating a growing disconnect between home and workplace. 39% regularly experience tension from colleagues.     
  • 63% of new dads at work have requested a change in working pattern since becoming a father. 14% of millennial dads have requested to work from home between 1-2 days per week, but less than 1 in 5 of them are granted it.

Strikingly, a third of new dads have already changed jobs since becoming a father, with another third actively looking to change.

Advice from dads on negotiating and managing flexible working

The research showed us that dads are already making changes, but many feel there is still a stigma when it comes to flexible working, while others are not sure of how to ask for it. So we’ve asked the DaddiLife community for their tips on how to manage and negotiate working flexibly, as a dad. Here’s what they said:

1. Do your research

If you’re planning to stay in your current company, talk to co-workers who have successfully negotiated a flexible working arrangement. Ask them to share tips and information based on their own experience. Make sure they tell you how they approached management about flexible working hours.

If you’re thinking of moving companies, research their approach to paternity leave, parental groups, and flexible working before you decide whether to put in an application.

2. Come up with a strategy

To improve your chances of negotiating flexible working, you should consider how the arrangement you seek will affect the company. Your employer may be concerned about the impact of an irregular work schedule. So come up with a strategy for how you will tackle this, and communicate it clearly. It shows that you understand the issues and have a solution.

Even better, have evidence ready to explain how the transformation will affect (and hopefully improve) your wider team. More on that below.

3. Be a problem-solver

Remember that, often in work environments, it’s convincing the boss that’s your number one target. To accomplish this, you should think through the business case for flexible working – that is, the advantages that your proposed approach would bring – such as improved productivity, morale, and effectiveness.

This will help you approach the conversation as a problem solver, rather than focusing on issues like rights and policies. Demonstrate the benefits and show your key stakeholders that you have talked it through with your own teams. With an example, explain that the company would enjoy enhanced productivity like other firms that flourish from flexible working schedules.

4. Remember that flexibility is two-way

Sounds odd perhaps, but when seeking flexibility for yourself, make sure you are clear on where you need to be flexible too.

Some managers fear that requests for flexible working can create a chain reaction from others within other teams. Some companies have very traditional approaches to the working day, or limited experience of such requests. If this is the case, you may face resistance at first.

So be aware of the culture, think through your employers’ needs, and have a plan for tackling objections. Make it clear that you would be prepared to be flexible in return, for example by coming in on a non-working day for a key meeting.

4. Remember it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Sometimes flexible work can seem like an ongoing negotiation. In some instances, (especially where flexible working isn’t currently happening), you may have to start with smaller changes to your schedule, and then grow these to being more and more flexible.

Given the choice, many of us would love to work in an ‘outcomes rather than hours’ environment. But sometimes, to reach your ultimate flexible goal, you need to start with small steps to show it can work and then build on them. Keeping up the flexible momentum is really important.

5. Just ask

Sounds simple, but as we discussed earlier, some men find it hard to be vulnerable at work, and even the act of asking is a big one for many. But if you don’t ask, you certainly won’t get.

So be clear on why you’re asking for flexible working, and discuss it with people in the organisation you can trust first if you need to. Then be brave, make a stand and show yourself and others that a choice is available. It’s a conversation that’s ultimately not just about you, it’s about your new family too.

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